Nine states, including Georgia, have been awarded $2.65 million to help stop the worsening impact of the HIV epidemic in Southern states.
Funders Concerned About AIDS, a collaborative that includes Gilead Sciences, the Ford Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, ViiV Healthcare, and Johnson & Johnson, awarded initial funding to the 38 organizations, including five in metro Atlanta.
“America’s South is the epicenter of the disease,” said John Barnes, FCAA’s executive director. “While 40 percent of all people living with HIV in the U.S. live in the South, the region received only about 19 percent of the resources.”
Among the nine targeted states, Barnes said the level of HIV-related philanthropy translates to $35 per person living with HIV compared to $116 per person allocated nationally.
“Without the necessary resources, we will not be able to control this epidemic,” he said.
Those data, he said, fueled the decision last year to form the collaborative.
Not only were those most impacted by HIV, primarily black gay men, not being reached, not being engaged in care, and were dying in greater numbers, Barnes said, “we knew that business as usual was not working.”
Of the 104 organizations requesting funding, 37 received the grant awards.
Jeff Graham, executive director of the nonprofit Equality Foundation of Georgia, said his organization received $60,000. It will be used to build on the work they have been doing the past seven years, including providing training and education programs for both people living with HIV and service providers so they know how to effectively speak with, work with and advance their own policy issues.
Barnes said it was no coincidence that four Atlanta agencies received grants totaling more than $260,000. Georgia got more than $575,000, with an agency in Duluth counted in that total.
“We recognize people from all over the South come to Atlanta to receive their care, including many from rural areas who commute there because they don’t want other people to know their status,” he said.
The FCAA launched the Southern HIV Impact Fund in an effort to accelerate what it hopes will be more meaningful progress toward ending HIV and reducing health disparities in the South.
AIDS United, the nation’s leading organization working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and with a long history of investing in the South, is managing the fund.
Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United, said the HIV fund is a critical initiative that will dedicate vital resources to a region that has become the focal point of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.
He said that regional and community-based organizations across the South are working tirelessly to support the needs of people living with HIV.
“I’m hopeful that these grants will contribute to these efforts to reduce stigma and incidence in an area that continues to carry a disproportionate burden of HIV in the United States,” he said.
Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas will also receive funding.
The collaborative will bring together leaders and organizations from heavily impacted communities in the nine targeted states in hopes of leveraging their unique knowledge of community needs along with their footprint and infrastructure on the ground to maximize the impact of the fund’s grantmaking.
This initial investment — the equivalent to nearly 12 percent of all private funding for HIV/AIDS directed to the region in 2015 — will support the creation of a robust pipeline of leaders working toward ending HIV in the South, and encourage greater collaboration between movements and donors.
Larry Scott-Walker, CEO of the nonprofit THRIVE SS Inc., one of the Atlanta grant recipients, said the funding equals additional lives saved and supports “our fight to challenge and eradicate HIV stigma and dangerous HIV criminalization laws.”
Funding also went to the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, Equality Foundation of Georgia, Racial Justice Action Center, all in Atlanta, and Positive Impact Health Centers, in Duluth.
Barnes said the fund will increase resources available and invested in the South; increase unfettered access to HIV prevention and care in the region; and increase collaboration within the HIV community and across various social and reproductive justice movements.
“This initial investment is just a first step in providing resources needed to tackle the challenges of HIV in the region,” Barnes added. “Central to our work in the U.S. South is addressing the social and economic dimensions of the HIV epidemic. In order to make sustainable progress, we will need funders that address the issues that intersect with, and often fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic — health equity, racism, homophobia, poverty, and reproductive health and justice — to join our efforts.”