Atlanta HIV groups get $400,000 to battle epidemic

Seven Atlanta-based HIV organizations received a total of $400,000 to combat the spread of the epidemic in a city with some of the highest infection rates in the U.S.

The Atlanta groups receiving grants were Thrive SS ($80,000), NAESM ($75,000), He Is Valuable ($65,000), A Vision 4 Hope ($52,500), Here’s To Life ($50,000), Aniz ($42,500) and SisterLove ($35,000).

Larry Scott-Walker (photo left), executive director of Thrive SS, said the group was “super excited” to get its grant. 

“For the first time, we have funds to support implementation and evaluation of our support model, its activities and engagements,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

The groups were among 40 in the South that received a total of $2.3 million to fight HIV in the region. Pharmaceutical giant Gilead awarded the funding on Dec. 5 as part of its grant program called the COMPASS Initiative.

The funding is needed because the South accounts for a disproportionate share of HIV infections compared to other regions, said Neena Smith-Bankhead, director of capacity building and community engagement with Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. The Rollins School is one of the COMPASS Initiative's three coordinating centers. 

“These resources are vital to saving lives," she said in a press release. “Together, we can find, grow and strengthen the capacity of organizations that are able to combat HIV in the Southern United States.”

NAESM will use its grant for several purposes, according to Alvan Quamina, the group’s executive director. The group will expand, diversify and train its board of directors; create a strategic planning process that involves the board, management, staff and clients; and improve its IT infrastructure, including upgrading its internet access.

“This is phase one of our Modernization Project, providing the platform of good governance, multi-level constituency engagement, and basic IT infrastructure upon which subsequent agency systems improvements can be built, preparing the agency for the important work of ending the HIV epidemic among black gay and bisexual men, and supporting those already living with HIV,” Quamina said.

Atlanta has the second-highest rate of new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said Monday that he’s confident Congress will fund a $291 million federal plan to end the epidemic. 

Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett — which have some of the highest rates of infections in the U.S. — are targeted as part of the federal plan.