If you live in the Flint, Michigan, area, you won't have to look further than your local church to learn everything you need to know about protecting your sexual health.
More than 55 churches are signed on to participate in YOUR Blessed Health, a program that trains youth to become peer counselors, who in turn will teach the Black community about HIV and sexually transmitted infections. The participating churches are working to facilitate a dialogue within a place that doesn't usually even talk about sex, never mind the potential repercussions. But with African-American teens ages 13 to 19 comprising 65 percent of all new AIDS cases among their age group, Michigan churches are finding themselves having to thwart traditions in order to affect change.
The program started as a pilot in 2006 and now includes nine different denominations within the city. YOUR Blessed Health offers diverse activities for faith leaders to choose from depending on their beliefs, doctrines and culture. Programs are unique to each church and include seminars like "Saved, Satisfied and Sanctified! How to Satisfy Your Boo and Still be Saved."
YOUR Blessed Health strives to provide a safe space to teach youth about HIV and STI prevention and reduce the stigma surrounding those who are HIV-positive. The program teaches consciousness and skills to adults and faith leaders as well as ongoing support so that they are prepared to teach and train members of the church and community.
The program has plans to expand to other churches around the country, becoming a model for how institutions in other communities can educate people about sexual health in faith-based settings and the African-American community.