The Merck Foundation recently committed $7 million to promote access to HIV care and improve outcomes of vulnerable and underserved patients with HIV living in the southeastern United States, according to a news release.
The 5-year initiative, known as HIV Care Connect, will award grants to organizations in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
“While new cases of HIV are on the decline in the U.S., the Southeastern region continues to bear a disproportionate burden of new infections,” Carmen Villar, vice president of social business innovation at Merck, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Persons living with HIV in vulnerable Southeastern communities also experience substantial barriers to HIV care and often have poorer health outcomes across the HIV care continuum related to gaps in public health infrastructure and complex factors related to social determinants of health.”
In 2017, there were 38,739 new HIV diagnoses in the U.S., according to the CDC. Youth aged 13 to 24 years accounted for nearly one-quarter of all diagnoses. More than half of all new diagnoses were made in the South, and blacks comprised 43% of new cases.
To improve access to care for people living in the southeastern U.S., the Merck Foundation awarded funds to three organizations: Care Resource in Miami; Medical Advocacy and Outreach in Montgomery, Alabama; and the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. The foundation chose the University of Alabama at Birmingham as the national program office for the initiative to support the three organizations in their efforts and to build a partnership between the public and health sectors to reduce barriers to care.
“HIV Care Connect can serve as a critical catalyst in identifying best practices to optimize treatment outcomes among persons living with HIV and overcoming health disparities,” Michael Mugavero, MD, MHSc, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “By empowering agencies in the South to develop and evaluate programs locally, the potential for sustainability and dissemination to other locations in the Southeast region is maximized. The success of the HIV Care Connect initiative in promoting viral suppression is central to achieving individual health and wellness among persons living with HIV, as well as realizing the vision of [Undetectable = Untransmittable] in preventing new HIV infections.” – by Katherine Bortz
CDC. HIV and youth. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/youth/index.html. Accessed Sept. 5, 2019.
CDC. HIV in the United States by region. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/geographicdistribution.html. Accessed Sept. 5, 2019.
Disclosure: Gerberding is an employee of Merck. Infectious Diseases in Children was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures for Mugavero at the time of publication.