CHARLOTTE — Since 2006, Charlotte’s D-UP! project has reached out in an effort to curb rising HIV/AIDS transmission and infection rates among communities of color and young men who have sex with men (MSM). The project has been largely successful, training dozens of peer leaders and educating youth and young adults on the value of safer sex practices.

D-UP!, originally a similar but separate project initiated by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had been housed under Metrolina AIDS Project (MAP), the nearly 25-year-old AIDS service organization that shut down amidst concerns of financial insolvency and leadership questions last fall.

That initial $1 million dollar grant helped D-UP! and other similar projects in Raleigh and Greensboro get off the ground and running. When MAP closed, however, the Charlotte program was left without a home.

Darrin Johnson, D-UP!’s senior project coordinator, told qnotes the CDC was interested in keeping the project going. The government agency scouted out a new home for D-UP!, and found one in the Regional HIV/AIDS Consortium.

“Service with the program was interrupted for about a month, however we did still do what we could to go out and talk to folks and keep the project running, making sure conversations were still happening and we kept our community advisory board intact.” Johnson said.

Although down in January, Johnson said the project was able to start again in February. It’s been full steam ahead since.

“We hit the ground running within about a week into being at the Consortium,” Johnson said. “We started back our training and got back with the community advisory board to let them know we were here. We’ve started planning our annual reunion in July — the ball is our largest event.”

Among other projects this spring, D-UP! also recently completed a testing event in conjunction with Mt. Moriah Baptist Church and Johnson and Wales University. More than 145 people were tested at the March 9 event.

Johnson said he feels the program continues to do good work. D-UP! will also release their next round of “Prevention is Sexy” awareness posters — featuring scantily-clad guys with safer sex messages — in the summer. Johnson said such preventative messages and strategies both speaks to and gets the attention of youth while reinforcing the educational campaign.

Johnson concluded, “It’s definitely making an impact.” : :

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.