NEW YORK, 2 June 2010 — The Ford Foundation today announced a $25 million effort to fight the disproportionate yet largely hidden impact of HIV/AIDS on marginalized communities in the United States.

The initiative will target the District of Columbia and nine states in the South that rank among the highest in new AIDS cases. It will also support efforts to address the spread of HIV among African Americans, women, gay and bisexual men and Latinos. The effort will build upon investments made by Ford over the past several years to address the impact of HIV in these communities and to fight the discrimination that allows the epidemic to spread. It is informed by decades of Ford work tackling difficult human rights issues facing highly marginalized communities.

The South accounted for almost half (46 percent) of new AIDS cases in the United States in 2007 and has the greatest number of people estimated to be living with AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also in 2007, racial and ethnic minorities represented seven-in-ten (71 percent) of new AIDS cases and AIDS deaths (70 percent). Today, women represent a larger share of new HIV infections than they did earlier in the epidemic, with some 280,000 living with HIV or AIDS. Black women bear the brunt of this impact, accounting for nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of new AIDS cases among women, and having a prevalence rate 18 times that of white women.

At the same time, most of these communities have among the lowest levels of access to resources designed to prevent and treat the disease. The South, for example, consistently ranks at or near the bottom in terms of federal dollars spent on HIV-infected populations.

“This crisis is affecting the places and people that as a country we too easily ignore,” said Luis A. Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “The HIV infection rate among African Americans, if looked at in isolation, would rank the United States as one of the countries in the world most affected by the epidemic. We can’t accept that. This initiative aims not only to help stop the spread of HIV, but also to address the stigma and discrimination that allowed the epidemic to grow in these communities in the first place.”

Ford’s grants—at least $5 million a year for the next five years—will support organizations working to:

  • Build strong constituencies of leaders, especially among the most affected communities. These leaders and their organizations will educate policymakers and the public about the disproportionate impact of HIV in the United States and what’s needed to address it.
  • Expand advocacy and litigation work at both the federal and state levels to ensure a more effective and equitable response to HIV/AIDS. Early grants to build capacity in these areas among grassroots organizations are already yielding policy shifts.
  • Fight the stigma and discrimination that contribute to the spread of the disease.

“This initiative is about opening everyone’s eyes to the toll that HIV is taking in communities across America and moving more people to take action,” said Terry McGovern, program officer at the Ford Foundation. “It’s also about following the numbers. If we’re serious about addressing HIV in the United States, we have to focus on the places and the populations where it is spreading the fastest. Breaking the stigma, getting people to talk about the issues and creating a culture of openness around HIV are absolutely essential to this work.”

Ford’s announcement came on the same day that the White House held a conference on black men and HIV, bringing together grassroots and national organizations from across the country—many of them supported by Ford—to map out strategies for decreasing the spread of HIV in the black community.

“While black Americans represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 45 percent of new HIV infections,” said Maya L. Harris, vice president of Ford’s Democracy, Rights and Justice program. “We cannot afford to be silent witnesses as HIV/AIDS claims the lives of more women and people of color. Ford’s investment seeks to break through the lack of awareness and urgency that has prevented a more effective response for the communities now at the very center of this crisis.”

In the South, Ford grants have supported Southern REACH, a grantmaking initiative administered by the National AIDS Fund that supports community organizations with a proven track record of reaching marginalized communities most affected by HIV. The grants help these groups achieve social change, shape responsible HIV/AIDS public policy and/or respond to the underlying legal, political and systemic barriers contributing to the disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS in the Southern region of the country. The foundation’s new commitment will allow Southern REACH to expand this effort, with a new round of grants planned for the fall. A request for proposals will be posted on the National AIDS Fund’s Web site in August.

Southern REACH works within nine states and regions: Alabama, Arkansas, Northern Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The foundation will also support national and regional organizations working to build the advocacy capacity of communities most affected by HIV, by helping them to shape policy decisions that determine how and where AIDS funding and services are deployed across the country. These efforts are grounded in the foundation’s belief that efforts to meet the needs of these communities will be successful only if the efforts are shaped by the communities.

All of Ford’s work will build on its 25-year track record of support to protect and promote the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, both in the United States and around the world.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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