The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force is using a $148,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Minority Health to assist grassroots organizations battling HIV/AIDS in the black community.
The task force will use the grant funds to build partnerships with community collaboratives in the Hill District and Homewood, and with the Seven Project, a support group for black gays. The partnerships also will include the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and PERSAD, a center that serves the emotional needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender minorities. The task force is naming the initiative HEAP, for Hill/East Access and Prevention Project.
The goal of the initiative is to offer more education and testing and to identify and help at least 350 black residents who are living with HIV without a system of support or care. The task force plans to hire a project coordinator and three community educators. The hope is to offset the rapidly increasing rates of HIV infections among black residents of southwestern Pennsylvania, and across the nation.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there were 2,043 people living with HIV in Allegheny County in March. An estimated 800 of them are black.
"We can't do this alone," said Bob Feikema, executive director of the task force. "We need the assistance and support of community groups." The task force plans to link clients with case managers, facilitate their access to local treatment services and state and local programs that offer medications, and help them make decisions on insurance issues. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and his wife, Mary, are chairing the task force's fund-raising campaign.
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