CDC awards $1.67 million to Center on Halsted for HIV services

Updated Oct. 4, 11:45 a.m.

Chicago-(ENEWSPF)- Center on Halsted’s HIV testing and prevention services were awarded more than $1.6 million this week from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand its services for young African American and Latino gay and bisexual men. The award is part of the CDC’s five-year, $55 million effort to reach communities that face particularly high and increasing risk of HIV infection.

“HIV and AIDS is still a life-threatening epidemic – especially in the African American and Latino communities which are facing increasing rates of infection,” said Modesto Tico Valle, Center on Halsted CEO. “Thanks to this grant, we can empower members of our community most adversely affected by HIV and AIDS.”

The award is for $1,665,590 and will be spread out over the next five years, with the Center receiving 590 $332,733 each year. The new grant will allow the Center to expand its outreach, education and testing services specific for young African American and Latino Men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 13 and 29. 

Specifically, Center on Halsted will launch the Mpowerment Project, a nationally-recognized HIV prevention program that mobilizes young gay and bisexual men to shape a healthy community for themselves, build positive social connections and support their friends to have safer sex. The project has been proven to reduce the rates of unprotected sex thus lowering the rate of HIV infection. Through the grant the Center will be able to engage 1,400 individuals over the next five years in the project.

As part of this project, Center on Halsted will partner with three local organizations: Chicago House Social Services Agency, which provides housing and supportive services for HIV-affected and at-risk individuals and families; Affinity Community Services, which is a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ communities; and the Chicago Gay Black Men’s Caucus, which works to reduce new HIV infections and bridge gaps across the Black MSM community via outreach, programs and more.

“This work cannot be done alone and we’re proud to partner with three organizations that are so committed to the community,” Valle added.  The organizations will work together to both identify and engage individuals and also provide the expanded services.

“United we can help reach and empower more individuals, which will in turn save lives,” said Rev. Stan Sloan, CEO of Chicago House.

“This partnership will help us make real, significant progress against the growing challenges around HIV and AIDS within communities of color and help reduce the stigma associated with the infection,” said Kim Hunt, Executive Director of Affinity Community Services.

“We’re grateful to the CDC for recognizing the need to aggressively engage Black MSM into HIV prevention services, and standing with community-based organizations to make a difference,” said Keith Green of the Chicago Gay Black Men’s Caucus. "CBGMC is excited to partner with Center on Halsted on this effort."

Awards were given to 34 community organizations around the nation, including CALOR, which provides HIV/AIDS services to Chicago’s Latino community and is headquartered in Humboldt Park.

According to CDC estimates, the annual number of new HIV infections increased 48 percent among young black MSM between 2006 and 2009. Among Latinos, men who have sex with men are by far the most severely impacted, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new infections. Nearly half of these infections among Latino MSM occurred in the youngest age group (aged 13-29). Transgender people are also severely affected by HIV. It is estimated that 28 percent of transgender people are HIV-infected.

Nationwide, gay and bisexual men (of all races) account for more than 60% of all new HIV infections. Center on Halsted currently provides comprehensive HIV/AIDS services for the entire community including rapid testing, counseling services and educational programs. In addition, the Center is home to the State of Illinois’ AIDS/HIV & STD Hotline, a free and anonymous service to provide callers with the most current and medically-accurate information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. The hotline receives more than 14,000 calls a year. Services are available in both English and Spanish.