Beyond faith-based organizations: using comparative institutional ethnography to understand religious responses to HIV and AIDS in Brazil

Am J Public Health. 2011 Jun;101(6):972-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2010.300081. Epub 2011 Apr 14.


Religious institutions, which contribute to understanding of and mobilization in response to illness, play a major role in structuring social, political, and cultural responses to HIV and AIDS. We used institutional ethnography to explore how religious traditions--Catholic, Evangelical, and Afro-Brazilian--in Brazil have influenced HIV prevention, treatment, and care at the local and national levels over time. We present a typology of Brazil's division of labor and uncover overlapping foci grounded in religious ideology and tradition: care of people living with HIV among Catholics and Afro-Brazilians, abstinence education among Catholics and Evangelicals, prevention within marginalized communities among Evangelicals and Afro-Brazilians, and access to treatment among all traditions. We conclude that institutional ethnography, which allows for multilevel and interlevel analysis, is a useful methodology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Brazil
  • Catholicism
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Organizations, Nonprofit
  • Protestantism
  • Qualitative Research
  • Religion*
  • Stereotyping