NEW YORK -- The Pfizer Foundation today announced a new grant program aimed at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the southern United States, with particular focus on African-American and Latino communities.
The Pfizer Foundation Southern HIV/AIDS Prevention Initiative will direct $3 million over three years to fund highly targeted prevention programs to underserved populations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
"Comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programs focused on communities most at risk are our best defense against this deadly disease," said Hank McKinnell, a member of the Pfizer Foundation board of directors and chairman and CEO of Pfizer Inc. "By partnering with organizations in small towns and big cities across the South, we hope to help slow the increasing incidence of HIV/AIDS."
Preference for grants will be given to small and mid-sized organizations in rural and urban areas that have a demonstrated track record of prevention and service to multicultural communities that are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. During the three-year initiative, grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 will be awarded to 10-20 community-based prevention programs.
The face of HIV/AIDS is changing across the South and becoming increasingly African American, rural, heterosexual, and female. According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, African Americans and Latinos account for significantly higher rates of reported new AIDS cases than Caucasians, with rates of 76.8 cases per 100,000 people for African Americans, 31.4 cases for Latinos and 8.1 cases for Caucasians.
"Underserved communities already plagued by a variety of health disparities are also hardest hit by HIV/AIDS," said Louis W. Sullivan, MD, former U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services and president emeritus of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. "In my home state of Georgia, one of the locations targeted by the Pfizer Foundation initiative, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death for African-American men and women ages 20-44 in 2001."
McKinnell and Sullivan both serve on the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), where they have become increasingly concerned about the need to address the pandemic both at home and abroad. The Southern States Manifesto, a document written by state- and community-based HIV/AIDS and STD groups outlining the emerging crisis in the region, was unveiled by the Southern AIDS Coalition at a PACHA meeting in January 2003.
"The HIV/AIDS epidemic is out of control in the South," said Dr. Gene Copello, co-chairman of the Southern AIDS Coalition and executive director of Florida AIDS Action. "Forging partnerships in the prevention community is a winning strategy for organizations on the front line and for families and individuals living with the disease."
According to the Manifesto, produced by Southern AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease directors, 40 percent of the people estimated to be living with AIDS reside in the South and 46 percent of the estimated new HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in the region since 2001. The South accounts for little more than one-third of the total U.S. population. In the last seven years, the number of reported new cases has declined or leveled off across most of the nation, yet the estimated number of new AIDS cases in the South increased between 2000 and 2001.
Source: Pfizer Foundation