Chicago, IL ( July 23, 2015 ) The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) has awarded Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ), University of Chicago Medical Center ( UCMC ) and Project VIDA with $3.8 million to help fund a new five-year collaborative HIV targeted testing program aimed at Chicago's most vulnerable populations that include Black and Latino men who have sex with men ( MSM ) and transgender women.
"Howard Brown Health Center is profoundly honored and incredibly excited to lead this partnership that builds on the incredible expertise each organization brings to the table. Through collaboration, innovation, technical assistance from CDC and community input, the partnership will build HIV prevention and healthcare/service-linkage programs that better reach and serve our most vulnerable clients in the most affected areas South, West and North," says Daniel Pohl, Director of HIV/STI Prevention at HBHC.
"While many other funders will award grants for one, two or three years, this CDC award will be allocated over five years which will allow all of us to build a stronger infrastructure over time, maintain the testing strategies that we know work and most important allow us to try innovative approaches to prevention and see what really works and what does not," he adds.
The targeted testing partnership, which is in its initial planning stage, will focus on bolstering testing rates among African-American and Latino MSM and transgender women in underserved areas and non-traditional spaces. This initiative will do so by ramping up current prevention and outreach services the organizations offer such as mobile testing units, conductive HIV prevention research, utilizing social media, and online sites to encourage testing and diversity initiatives that include working with the Chicago ballroom scene.
Most important, this testing partnership will serve as an entryway for individuals to be linked to other forms of health care such as hormone therapy, HIV treatment, primary care, Pre- and Post- Exposure Prophylaxis ( PrEP and PEP ) , behavioral health and case management.
For Project VIDA, linking vulnerable communities to care is crucial in reducing health disparities in the community. "Not only do African-American and Latino gay and bisexual men, especially younger MSM, and transgender women bear the brunt of new HIV infections, they are more likely to be unaware of their HIV status. Not to mention, they are at higher risk for other chronic illnesses. And yet, they are more likely to be disconnected from the health care system," says Michael Henderson, Executive Director of Project VIDA. He adds, "So to have three organizations working together to meet the community where they are, in their neighborhood to provide culturally competent care is huge, especially for an organization like Project VIDA who has been on the frontlines in these areas for the past 25 years."
UCMC echoes these sentiments as they look forward to what the future of this partnership will bring.
"This collaboration is very exciting as it will enable UCMC to continue the important work of translating our research on network approaches to HIV testing and prevention into practice to prevent new infections throughout the city," says Dr. Julia Rosebush, Medical Director of Care2Prevent Pediatric/Adolescent HIV programs at the University of Chicago.
She adds, "In addition, through its Urban Health Initiative, UCMC also partners with more than 30 community health centers and local hospitals in the South Side Healthcare Collaborative to connect area residents with regular medical providers for preventive care." This grant is part of a wider CDC initiative that granted a total of $216 million to 90 community-based organizations nationwide in hopes to deliver effective HIV prevention strategies to those at greatest risk for HIV transmission.
About Howard Brown Health Center
Founded in 1974, Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ) is the Chicago-based health care and research organization primarily serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer ( LGBTQ ) community and its allies. HBHC serves more than 27,000 adults and youth each year. A patient-centered medical home, HBHC provides primary medical care, behavioral health services, specialty chronic and infectious disease services, and conducts community-based clinical and behavioral research.
About Project VIDA
Project VIDA is a culturally-focused HIV/AIDS prevention and direct services community-based organization located on Chicago's West Side. Project VIDA was founded by a consortium of volunteers in 1992 to address the unique needs and concerns of Latino and African American individuals at risk for or currently living with HIV/AIDS.
About University of Chicago Medical Center
The University of Chicago Medical Center is the main provider of HIV prevention and care services for residents of Chicago's South Side and adjacent south suburbs, and as such is uniquely situated to test, treat, and prevent new HIV infections in a highly affected population. UCMC providers currently serve more than 1,500 HIV-infected or high-risk adolescent and adult clients annually, with a particular focus on adolescent and young adult Black MSM ( YBMSM ), and Black transwomen. Services include primary and specialty HIV care; psychosocial services including case management; enhanced linkage/retention services; partner services; STI testing/treatment; inpatient services; comprehensive anal care; mental health counseling; an LGBT drop-in program; and other community support groups.