As the 2016 U.S. Conference on AIDS got underway in Hollywood, Florida, on September 16, one of the first workshops put a spotlight on several activities supported by the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF). Several presentations by federal colleagues and grant recipients demonstrated the reach and impact that SMAIF is having in responding to HIV among communities of color.
One of the innovative practices shared was the CHAMPS Training Program launched by Community Education Group (CEG) of Washington, DC. With support of a four-year grant from the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) that was supported by SMAIF resources, the CHAMPS program recruited, trained, and hired individuals recently released from incarceration, people with histories of substance abuse, and people living with HIV to go out into their communities – the neighborhoods most heavily impacted by HIV in the nation’s capital – to provide community-based HIV services. Those individuals then went out to neighborhood venues to conduct HIV prevention outreach, testing, and prompt linkage to care.
CEG recognized, according to A. Toni Young, CEG’s Executive Director, that many of those at risk for HIV or living with undiagnosed infection in those neighborhoods were unlikely to go to a doctor’s office or even a community-based organization for services. So rather than waiting for folks to come in, CEG trained a cadre of culturally competent peers who could effectively engage with their neighbors and peers in various venues in the community. More than 125 individuals were trained. The CHAMPS educated neighbors and peers about HIV, persuaded them to get tested, and, for those who were diagnosed with HIV, helped support them in getting connected to care and to remain in care.
Part of the power of the program, Young remarked, was that “We gave returning citizens and others a job, a career path.” Indeed, many of the CHAMPS now work for other service providers, clinics, and community-based organizations across the city.
That isn’t the only legacy of the project. CEG is now working to replicate the model, applying it to another infectious disease and in another locale. Specifically, CEG is working in West Virginia to help address the spike in new hepatitis C infections resulting from the opioid epidemic that is hitting the Appalachian region particularly hard.
The session was the first of four SMAIF sessions that will take place during the four-day conference. The USCA workshop series, SMAIF Pathway: Catalyst for Change in Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities, will showcase the important work funded by the SMAIF to better reach and serve racial and ethnic minority populations; provide a forum to discuss existing gaps, unmet needs, and untapped opportunities; and solicit strategic ideas for the future of SMAIF.
New HRSA-led SMAIF Initiative Focuses on Curing HCV Coinfection among PLWH
Approximately 25% of people living HIV in the United States are coinfected with hepatitis C (HCV). This year, SMAIF invested in a new initiative to increase the number of people of color with HIV/HCV coinfection whose HCV is diagnosed, treated, and cured. To do so, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau (HRSA/HAB) is leading this initiative that will build the capacity of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Programs in several jurisdictions. HRSA is providing financial resources and capacity building assistance to Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part A and Part B recipients (major metropolitan areas and states, respectively).
Each recipient will design and test different models of care. According to April Stubbs-Smith, HRSA/HAB’s Director of the Division of Domestic HIV Programs in the Office of Training and Capacity Development, the initiative will also publish and disseminate evaluation findings and best practices so other jurisdictions and healthcare systems can benefit. The funded jurisdictions will be announced soon.
Over the course of the conference, additional SMAIF-supported activities will be featured in the remaining sessions.