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Ryan White funds for HIV care in pipeline as COVID-19 risks continue

By David Pendered

As the CDC establishes the COVID-19 risks for persons living with HIV, metro Atlanta is on track to receive $28 million in federal funding to continue for a year HIV treatment programs for low-income residents in 20 counties.

grady, ponce, aids

The nationally renown AIDS programs provided by the Grady Health System are to receive a total of $9.2 million in Ryan White funding this year. The sum represents nearly a third of the funding provided for the 20-county metro area. Credit: David Pendered

Fulton County’s Board of Commissioners is slated to vote Wednesday to accept the grant. Fulton is the conduit for funding that is to be distributed among 17 agencies. Fulton does not have to provide a matching grant, according to the legislation.

All the money targets low-income folks in metro Atlanta who need core HIV medical and support services. Minority communities are to receive $1.9 million of the total sum, which has been reserved through the Minority AIDS Initiative.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funds the grants to provide primary medical care, essential support service and medications. The goal is to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission in these hard-to-reach populations of low-income residents.

In regards to HIV and COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated on March 29 its list of underlying medical conditions among those with HIV. The condition puts them at an elevated risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The list covers a range of conditions including asthma, blood disorders, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, Down syndrome, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and smoking.

This list is in addition to observations the CDC released Feb. 1. That advisory noted risk level from COVID-19 to those living with AIDS is comparable to the rest of the population – with two major exceptions:

HIV dignoses

Georgia had the nation’s highest rate among states for diagnoses of HIV in 2018; only Washington D.C. had a higher rate, according to this CDC map. Credit: cdc.gov

  • “People with a low CD4 cell count and
  • “People not on effective HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART).”

In regards to whether persons living with AIDS should get a coronavirus vaccine, the CDC advises that all vaccines administered in the U.S./ are “as safe as possible.” The guideline does not provide direct guidance and observes:

  • “COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same safety tests and meet the same standards as other vaccines. People with HIV were included in clinical trials, though safety data specific to this group are not yet available.
  • “People with HIV are part of the group of people with underlying medical conditions. If you have HIV, you may choose to get vaccinated if you have not had a severe or immediate allergic reactionto any of the vaccine ingredients.”

Meanwhile, HIV remains a significant challenge in the region at a time the South continues to lead the nation in newly diagnosed HIV cases. The South accounted for 51 percent of new diagnoses in 2018, according to the CDC’s latest report.

Metro Atlanta accounts for the greatest proportion of HIV diagnoses in Georgia. Georgia ranks No. 1 among the states in its rate of HIV diagnoses, according to a 2019 report, the latest available, from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Georgia’s rate of 25.9 cases per 100,000 population trailed only Washington, D.C., with a rate of 41.2 per 100,000 population. The U.S. rate was 12.9, according to Kaiser’s report.

The following list provides the funding for each recipient, with one-year contracts slated from March 1 through February 28, 2022. In alphabetical order, the recipients are:

The South leads the nation in HIV diagnoses in the 2014-2018 period, according to the CDC. Credit: cdc.gov

  • AID Atlanta, Inc. (Part A: $1,091,148);
  • AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Inc. (Part A: $2,379,660);
  • Aniz, Inc. (Part A: $457,762);
  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society (Part A: 94,364);
  • Cherokee County Board of Health (Part A: $94,364);
  • Clayton County Board of Health (Part A: $450,998);
  • DeKalb County Board of Health (Part A: $1,058,058);
  • Emory University (Part A: $1,020,827);
  • Fulton County Board of Health (Part A: $2,156,485 and MAI: $236,953);
  • Grady Memorial Hospital dba Grady Health System (Part A: $7,531,174 and MAI: $1,649,858);
  • Here’s to Life, Inc. (Part A: $341,927); NAESM, Inc. (Part A: $154,615);
  • Open Hand Atlanta, Inc. (Part A: $1,569,168);
  • Positive Impact Health Centers, Inc. (Part A: $5,402,574);
  • Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care, Inc. (Part A: $791,148);
  • Someone Cares, Inc. (Part A: $149,989);
  • Southside Health Centers (Part A: $1,072,490); and,
  • THRIVE SS Inc. (Part A: $114,370).

Note: Part A funds core medical and support services. MAI funds programs in minority communities.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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