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Saturday, January 14, 2012

L.A. Center Receives CDC Grant to Combat HIV/AIDS Among Black Gay Men

A new four-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide more than $330,000 each year to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center so it can expand its vital HIV prevention work.

Specifically, the grant is funding services tailored to reach gay and bisexual men of color who are 24 and younger.

"The HIV-infection rate we’re seeing among gay and bisexual youth, especially in men of color, is really alarming," said Susan Cohen, the Center’s Director of Health, Education and Prevention. "We know that, in order to reach the communities that need these services most, we have to tailor our approach to meet their needs. That’s why this grant is so important; it allows us to adapt our best practices to meet the needs of those most at-risk."

The funding will enable the Center to test more people who live in high-risk neighborhoods through its mobile testing unit. The specially equipped van travels to neighborhoods where HIV infection rates are on the rise, particularly in Latino and African American communities within the basin and south Los Angeles.

The mobile testing unit has been able to test about 600 clients a year, but the goal with the CDC grant is to increase the number of those tested and to link those who test positive to appropriate treatment and support.
"These programs are the result of Presidential leadership that has finally allowed funding for populations that are most at-risk for HIV infection but who have long been ignored," said Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings. "These programs build community and self-esteem, and they engage participants in the very real and complex issues that contribute to HIV risk. We can’t just say ’use a condom,’ we’ve got to address the many underlying issues that could lead them to engage in unprotected sex. "

The grant will also allow the Center to expand its MPowerment peer program. The youth-based initiative fosters community building and meaningful discussions about issues that can lead to risky behavior. It also provides youth with a safe space to create its own community.

"Funding on a federal level has not specifically focused on gay and bisexual men of color or youth of color," said Cohen, who said prior efforts haven’t focused on these at-risk populations properly. They mostly focused on gay men in general, and not reaching out to underrepresented populations.

"There is a correlation between communities struggling with homelessness and poverty and higher HIV rates," added Cohen.

Other Los Angeles-based programs focusing on minorities and at-risk LGBT youth include the Sabores Youth Program through Bienestar that is geared towards LGBT youth between 14 and 24.

Sabores is offered in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and it focuses on promoting the health and well being of LGBT youth who take part. The program offers individual counseling, weekly support groups and social events that are held in a substance-free and safe environment.

The Center for Strengthening Youth Prevention Paradigms in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles provides services to help mobilize these communities. The SYPP center provides services based on the creation of sustainable structural changes that reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and building an effective coalition of service providers and community-based organizations to combat the spread of the epidemic

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