Black Pastors’ Views on preaching about sex: barriers, facilitators, and opportunities for HIV prevention messaging

Adaora A. Adimora*, Moses V. Goldmon, Tamera Coyne-Beasley, Catalina B. Ramirez, Gilbert A. Thompson, Danny Ellis, Joe L. Stevenson, Jerry M. Williams, Daniel L. Howard, Paul A. Godley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Despite the disproportionately high rates of heterosexually transmitted HIV infection among US Blacks and ongoing need for effective inexpensive behavioral interventions, the use of sermons as an HIV prevention tool in Black churches has received little research attention. The Black church plays an important role in Black communities and is a potential ally in development and delivery of sexual risk prevention messages. The objective of this study was to examine Black pastors’ thoughts about whether sermons should address issues related to heterosexual relationships–and the barriers and facilitators to discussing these topics in a sermon setting. Design: We conducted in-depth semi-structured, individual interviews among 39 pastors of Black churches in North Carolina and analyzed the interview data using thematic analysis strategies based on grounded theory. Results: Pastors expressed widely ranging opinions, especially about discussion of condom use, but generally agreed that sermons should discuss marriage, abstinence, monogamy, dating, and infidelity–behaviors that impact sexual networks and HIV transmission. The major barriers to incorporation of these subjects into sermons include the extent to which a concept undermines their religious beliefs and uncertainty about how to incorporate it. However, scriptural support for a prevention message and the pastor’s perception that the message is relevant to the congregation facilitate incorporation of related topics into sermons. Conclusions: These findings have implications for the potential utility of sermons as an HIV prevention tool and suggest that it is possible for public health professionals and pastors of Black churches to form partnerships to develop messages that are consonant with pastors’ religious convictions as well as public health recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-574
Number of pages15
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Black church
  • HIV prevention
  • black church and HIV
  • religion
  • sermon
  • sexual behavior


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