AIDS

Black AIDS Institute

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Phill Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute, decades after the virus was first discovered.  

Trinn Suwannapha, via flickr.com/worldbank

Saturday is World AIDS Day. Here in Austin, the Department of Health and Human Services in holding a day long AIDS conference. This year’s focus is on how HIV is affecting young people in Travis County, among whom HIV infection is increasing.

Worldwide, deaths from AIDS are down since 2005. Rates of HIV infection are also falling. But HIV is on the rise among young people, including those in Travis County.

“In the last four or five years, we’ve seen a very sharp increase in the number of cases of HIV infection in among youth,” said Joe Barnes with Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services. “We define that as between 13 and 24.”

Amanda Mills, Centers for Disease Control

The San Antonio-based Texas Biomedical Research Institute has applied for a patent for a new genetically engineered HIV vaccine. This new vaccine would provide lifelong protection from the disease with a single dose.

The vaccine is designed to target the cells that line the body’s surface structures. which are the point of entry into the body in approximately 90 percent of HIV cases. Once HIV enters the body through these cells, it quickly spreads to the lymph nodes and other organs, where it replicates throughout the body. The new vaccine would stimulate the body’s outer layers and cells to generate cells that produce antibodies to HIV. 

flickr.com/asaustin

A financial shot in the arm is coming for people living with AIDS in Austin. As much as $5 million in federal funding is on the way, spread out over five years. But the federal funding comes as local AIDS assistance groups wrangle with funding cuts of their own. 

The announcement came at a city council meeting yesterday. The grant funds come from federal awards called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, funds. For Austin that means about $1 million each year for two Austin non-profits, AIDS Services of Austin and Project Transitions. The money is intended to help people with HIV and AIDS with housing need – short-term rent and mortgage assistance, help with utilities and other related expenses. 

According to Josh Allen, executive director of Project Transitions, housing is an area of incredible need for Austin. “As quickly as we can move someone into housing, there are two other folks on the waiting list.”

This grant money comes at a time when Project Transitions is struggling to fill a $45,000 gap left by reduced funding from the United Way. In July, the United Way for Greater Austin eliminated $1.2 million in grants to local nonprofits. “We’re seeing it across the board generally with fund raising efforts,” says Allen. “Specifically, with grants and foundations. It’s just a much more competitive environment.”

The HIV epidemic in the U.S. started in 1981, mainly in major cities along the East and West Coasts.

The first reports were from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco among gay and bisexual men. Within months, it was clear that injecting drug users were also getting the virus.

Even now, you can see the lingering geographic contours of how the epidemic unfolded.

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