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DETROIT – AIDS Partnership Michigan very reluctantly closed its highly regarded HIV prevention project for young men of color who have sex with men today. The mpowerment program, entitled REC Boyz, has been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since October of 2006. The five-year grant ends today, and as of this time, has not been refunded. Repeated calls to the CDC have not been returned.
Because the program has been so effective, the decision was gut-wrenching for staff. However at $31,000 a month, the nonprofit could not afford to fund it on its own.
“I have seen board members angry before. But I have never seen them cry,” said Barbara Murray, executive director of APM. “It has been the most highly impactful and game-changing program this agency has had the opportunity to operate.”
The REC Boyz have annually served over 300 young men and transgenders ages 13 to 24, utilizing a peer leadership model developed at the University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. The project has implemented a well-received HIV counseling and testing program that has reached over 700 individuals within the target population, including 76 percent men who have sex with men and 5 percent transgenders, with a confirmed positivity rate of 6 percent. Studies have shown that most people who are tested for HIV reduce risky behaviors.
During the grant period, the REC Boyz have reached over 5,000 high risk young Detroiters with informational sessions, outreach activities, skills building workshops and discussion groups. The annual funding from the CDC for the project has been $369,497 with a staff of 5 full-time employees. The program has been located at East Jefferson and St. Aubin.
AIDS Partnership Michigan applied for new funding from the CDC in March of this year. The proposal received a pre-decisional site visit in early August. However, at this time, the organization has not received further notification from the CDC, forcing the closing of the program.
APM has successfully secured smaller grants to reach the target population including new funding totaling some $50,000. “We will continue our prevention services including HIV counseling and testing from our main office at 2751 East Jefferson and with our fellow collaborators in the fight against HIV,” stated Murray. “This is what we do. The battle continues.”
Watch for updates on this story.