CDC awards $5 million to metro Atlanta counties to fight HIV

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The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention earmarked $5 million to four metro Atlanta counties as part of a national effort to end HIV by the year 2030.

The money is part of $117 million in funding for state and local health departments across the U.S. It should help regain momentum to fight HIV in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

“With continued infusion of new resources and innovation, we still have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put this epidemic in the history books,” Walensky said in a prepared statement.

Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett have some of the highest rates of new HIV infections in the U.S. They are among 48 counties in 19 states targeted as part of the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic program launched in 2019. Seven states overall and Puerto Rico are also part of the plan.

These latest awards are the second round of major funding in the EHE initiative. The CDC will give $5.9 million to the Georgia Department of Public Health to distribute the money to the counties.

Fulton will receive $1.5 million, followed by Cobb with $1.3 million and DeKalb and Gwinnett with $1.1 million each. GDPH will use about $900,000 for IT infrastructure, personnel and administrative costs of the initiative, according to a spokesperson.

Boosted testing and PrEP access

Local public health directors plan to use the funds in a variety of ways. Gwinnett, Newton & Rockdale County Health Departments district director Audrey Arona told Project Q Atlanta she was “thrilled” to receive the funding.

“We can end the HIV epidemic, if we can make testing commonplace, provide access to PrEP, which is preventive medication, and link those who are positive into continual care,” Arona said.

“Receiving these EHE funds also lets us redirect our state funds to Rockdale and Newton counties to increase these same priorities in those areas of our district,” she added.

Arona’s departments also plan to spend some of the new funds to help grassroots organizations. Those groups are already on the ground promoting HIV prevention to people disproportionately impacted by the virus.

Fulton County plans to link HIV-positive people to care and keep HIV-positive people in treatment with the funds. Plans include grants to smaller organizations for testing, linkage and treatment, according to Fulton Board of Health Director Lynn Paxton.

“It also supports additional testing, surveillance and media outreach,” Paxton said.

Pandemic delays

Cobb & Douglas Public Health continues to make strides in providing HIV testing and PrEP services, according to director Janet Memark. This new round of funding allows them to keep that work going.

“Some of our developments include a HIV self-test initiative, mail-order condom program, collaborations with our COVID-19 vaccine outreach, a strategic marketing campaign and financial support for local community-based organizations,” Memark said.

EHE funding started in August 2020, but the pandemic created delays. The DeKalb Board of Health didn’t receive its $1.27 million for 2020 until January of this year, according to a DeKalb spokesperson. Officials there did not want to comment on second-year funding until GDPH sends it.

In March, the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration gave $3.3 million to the Fulton Department for HIV Elimination. That department serves Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett. HRSA distributed $99 million to 61 recipients across the U.S. Fulton’s was the third-largest award in the country.

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