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New collaborative directs funding to fight HIV/AIDS in the South

By Dan Williams, program officer, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Friday, December 1, marked the 29th anniversary of World AIDS Day, a day we pause to lend support to people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS. Over 29 years we have seen great progress in the fight against HIV, including the development of antiretroviral therapy that controls the growth of the virus, improves how well a person’s immune system works and slows or stops symptoms of the disease.

But for Southern states there’s little to celebrate around this fight. Southern states account for an estimated 44 percent of all people living with an HIV diagnosis in the U.S.,  despite having just 37 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Fulfilling our mission to provide innovative leadership on pressing issues in our region, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta joined the fight against HIV/AIDS 37 years ago through funding for nonprofits working to care for those that are affected by this chronic disease. This year, the Foundation awarded $355,000 to nonprofits through its General Operating Support grant program.

To accelerate progress in the fight, Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) announced a collaborative effort, the Southern HIV Impact Fund, last week, designating $419,000 in additional funding for HIV/AIDS service agencies in metro Atlanta alone. The collaborative’s initial investment throughout the southern states equals $2.65 million in grants supporting 37 organizations.

The collaborative, which includes Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation, ViiV Healthcare, and Johnson & Johnson, is working jointly to leverage their collective efforts to promote a more coordinated and effective response to the disproportionate impact of HIV in the South. The Fund is being administered by AIDS United and more information is on their website.

Georgia continues to experience a heavy burden of HIV infection, illness and deaths, and we lag behind in providing quality HIV prevention and care to residents. Consider these 2015 Georgia facts (the most current data available). Georgia ranked fifth highest in the nation for total number of adults and adolescents living with HIV in 2015. The total number of Georgians living with HIV was 54,754. Of these, 53 percent had stage three disease, or AIDS.

HIV diagnosis rates for people in the South were higher than for Americans overall. Georgia was fifth-highest in the nation for the total number of new diagnoses of HIV during 2015 with 2,741 new HIV diagnoses.

Since the advent of antiretroviral therapy in the mid-1990s, deaths due to AIDS have declined substantially. Early detection and treatment are the keys to saving lives emphasizing the critical importance of people getting tested.

For more details on the impact of HIV/AIDS in Georgia, please visit our blog.  



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