Atlanta health centers, programs get $3.6 million to fight HIV

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded $2 million to metro Atlanta’s Ryan White Program and $1.6 million to six metro Atlanta health centers to combat the region’s HIV epidemic.

It was part of $117 million in awards announced by HHS on Wednesday as part of a federal initiative to end HIV in the U.S. The awards are distributed through the Health Resources & Services Administration, according to a press release.

"HRSA is a leader in working to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. "These investments will support partnerships between organizations that are on the front lines of preventing and reducing HIV transmission, as well as improving the overall health outcomes for people with HIV."

Four metro Atlanta counties – Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett – are among the 48 counties in the U.S. targeted as part of the federal plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

Atlanta’s Ryan White Program is a federally-funded program run by the Fulton Board of Health that provides care for low-income, uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV in Atlanta. The $2 million award will be available on March 1 and the Fulton Board of Health will have one year to spend it, according to Jeff Cheek (photo), director of the Fulton Department for HIV Elimination

“From the list of projects recommended by community members, we will need to focus on projects that have a large impact at a low cost,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

Cheek said they will likely spend the $2 million award on expanding clinic hours; creating a shared client eligibility portal among HIV agencies and county health clinics so clients living with HIV only need to provide their information once; incorporating video technology for clients to access care from home or at satellite centers or mobile clinics; and hiring a community engagement specialist to give people with HIV more of a say on how services are implemented.

“I think we have done a pretty good job over the years in getting community input on what we should fund, but not how programs and services should be set up to best meet the needs of the people we seek to serve,” Cheek said.

HRSA also gave about $1.6 million to six health centers in metro Atlanta that serve people with HIV. They are the Center for Pan Asian Community Services ($250,000), Family Health Centers of Georgia ($260,000), Four Corners Primary Care Centers ($255,000), Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb ($250,000), Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care ($270,000) and Southside Medical Center ($295,000).

That money will go toward expanding HIV testing, increasing access to PrEP and linking people who test positive for HIV to care, according to the press release.

HHS named DeKalb as one of four pilot sites in the U.S. to jumpstart the federal plan to end HIV in July. Some $1.5 million was split between the Georgia Department of Public Health and the DeKalb Board of Health, but they failed to spend $355,000 of it. They were given an extension in January that allows them until June 30 to spend the money.

Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties are all working on funding proposals for the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative that are due in March, according to Melanie Thompson, interim chair of the Fulton County HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care, and Policy Advisory Committee.