WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National AIDS Fund, with support from the Ford Foundation, has announced nearly $1.3 million in grant awards to 21 community-based HIV/AIDS organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina and seven other Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee).

The grant awards will support the development of programs that seek to achieve social change, shape responsible HIV/AIDS public policy, and/or respond to the underlying legal, political and systemic barriers contributing to disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS in the Southern United States.

The 2010-11 grant awards integrate two NAF grantmaking initiatives that have focused on HIV/AIDS in the nation’s Southern region: Southern REACH and Gulf Coast HIV/AIDS Relief Fund. The combined funding pool reflects the commitment of the National AIDS Fund and the Ford Foundation to streamline and expand investment in and to have significant impact on HIV/AIDS public policy and advocacy in the South.

According to Kandy Ferree, National AIDS Fund President and CEO, circumstances like the elimination of both AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and HIV prevention funding from South Carolina’s state budget demonstrate the glaring need for proactive, savvy and effective advocacy networks in the region.

“Critical issues like the South Carolina HIV/AIDS funding crisis reinforce the pivotal role community organizing and advocacy networks must play in fighting for sound HIV policy that ensures both access to HIV care and treatment and resources for crucial prevention activities,” said Ferree.

“With the Ford Foundation’s ongoing support, we can strategically direct the Southern REACH/Gulf Coast funds to programs that can affect real social change, and to policy advocacy activities that can improve — and save — the lives and the care of people infected with and affected by HIV living in the Southern United States.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 46 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. are in the South. The South is currently the region with the largest proportion of AIDS cases from less urban and nonurban areas, and the South leads the nation in persons dying with AIDS and persons living with AIDS.

“The disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on the Southern United States is only exacerbated by misinformation and lack of understanding about the disease, and by public policies that are not meeting the needs of the most vulnerable,” said Terry McGovern of the Ford Foundation.

“The vital community organizations receiving these new grants can help dispel myths and fear about HIV, and give people infected with and affected by HIV a stronger voice in policy decisions that impact their lives. We are pleased to continue our partnership with the National AIDS Fund to advance this important work across the South.”

Creating opportunity for the greatest impact possible for an organization and the community it serves has always been a key element to NAF’s grantmaking strategy in all of its work. And according to the head of one of the Southern grantee organizations, the resources provided by NAF’s Southern-focused initiatives are invaluable and pivotal to its capacity and ability to affect social change and policy improvement.

Dr. Bambi Gaddis, executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, knows first-hand just how important well-resourced HIV/AIDS policy advocacy networks are in order to have a strong voice with policy decision makers.

“Funding from our National AIDS Fund grant has been the catalyst to ensuring our task force can mobilize on key issues, like the current budget crisis in our state,” said Gaddis. “It is one of the most critical components to maintaining our networking.”

In addition to the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, grant recipients in North Carolina were: Alliance of AIDS Services Carolina (Raleigh); North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (Winston-Salem); and, Western North Carolina AIDS Project (Asheville).

> Defense Sec. Robert Gates has announced changes that will raise the standard for discharging service members under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The revisions include increasing the standard of evidence required in cases so that most hearsay and “malicious outings” will no longer be considered proof that a member is gay and mandating that third party evidence be presented under oath. In addition, the rank of officer accountable for determining whether to initiate action against a member of the military will be raised to general or flag officer.

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> On the eve of the anniversary of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker Hoover’s suicide due in part to homophobic bullying, his mother Sirdeaner Walker and GLSEN launched a campaign in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti-bullying bill with 101 bipartisan cosponsors. The bill, H.R. 2262, would require schools that receive federal education funding to implement a comprehensive, enumerated anti-bullying policy that also requires schools to report bullying incidents. Carl took his life on April 6, 2009. His mother has spent the last year raising awareness of the fact that bullying is a national public health crisis.

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> The Census Bureau is releasing its first-ever official PSAs for the LGBT community, encouraging LGBT people to mail back Census forms. There are six different videos, including one Spanish-language video, each featuring a well-known community leader. The groundbreaking campaign was unveiled at a press event earlier this month where actor George Takei (“Star Trek”) and his husband Brad Altman screened their own Census PSA, “Be Counted.” : :

This piece appeared in the April 17, 2010-April 30, 2010 print edition.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.