NEW YORK – The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) announced on Tuesday new funding initiatives to increase advocacy and service delivery for people living with and at-risk for HIV and hepatitis C.
In the U.S., EJAF will be launching a new funding initiative to address HIV in Black gay men and transgender individuals, building on our years of experience and support in fighting AIDS in these communities. In Eastern Europe, EJAF will launch the Key Populations Fund for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA KP Fund), focused on prevention and treatment of HIV and hepatitis C for individuals most vulnerable to the HIV epidemic in the region: people who use drugs, sex workers, and gay and bisexual men in the region.
The U.S. program will reach an anticipated 5,000 HIV-positive Black gay men and transgender individuals to learn about their HIV status and get linked to health care, social services and treatment. Another estimated 10,000 will receive HIV prevention services including access to PrEP. Support for advocacy will seek increased coverage for PrEP through Medicaid and ADAP programs and expansion of state Medicaid programs to provide HIV treatment to thousands of Black gay men and transgender individuals across the U.S. One key aspect of this new initiative will be to engage leadership from Black gay and transgender communities to help set priorities and strategies for this funding and to support community mobilization through the funding process as well as through the grants themselves. This will be the largest private funding initiative specifically supporting Black gay and transgender communities in history.
The EECA KP Fund will address the needs of key populations in the region. Over three years, the Fund will reach an estimated 20,000 people with HIV prevention, testing, and treatment. Mirroring a current Fund that EJAF runs for LGBT populations in countries in Africa where homosexuality is criminalized, the EECA KP Fund will also include a Rapid Response element to address emergencies, including the physical safety of people living with HIV. The EECA Key Populations Fund will also develop “Lighthouse” grants that support HIV and hepatitis C care within the public health system.
Funding for the new initiatives will be supported by EJAF and include financial contributions from Gilead Sciences. Gilead will also provide a donation of hepatitis C products to the EECA Fund to help cure 5,000 patients – a critical contribution in a region where up to 97 percent of people living with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C.
Although Black gay and bisexual men account for one in 500 people living in the U.S., they make up nearly one in four new HIV infections and one in six Americans living with HIV. One in four Black gay and bisexual men are already infected with HIV by the time they reach age 25, and one in two will become HIV-positive in their lifetimes. An estimated overall 21 percent of transgender individuals are infected with HIV in the U.S. and that number is approximately three times higher among Black transgender people.
Over the past three years, EJAF-US has invested more than $6.6 million in organizations working to change the course of the epidemic in Black communities of gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals. Through this new initiative, EJAF’s goal will be a more intensive focus to support community mobilization to develop programs and advocacy to:
Reduce new infection rates through support for innovative community-based programs to increase access to and use of HIV prevention and testing services.
Reduce AIDS-related illness and death through support for advocacy and community-based service delivery to improve engagement in health care and earlier access to HIV treatment and care.
Confront racism, homophobia, and transphobia as key drivers of HIV infection and disease.
“Our new funding initiative in the U.S. has the potential to substantially change the course of the HIV epidemic among Black gay men and transgender individuals by supporting the leadership and organizations within those communities,” said Scott Campbell, Executive Director of EJAF-US.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, over 1.5 million people are living with HIV. New HIV infections in the region have increased by over 50 percent since 2010. People who inject drugs, sex workers, and gay men make up over 96 percent of those infected. Over 75 percent of people living with HIV in EECA are not on treatment. Co-infections with hepatitis C are also widespread with an estimated 60-97 percent of people living with HIV who inject drugs co-infected with hepatitis C, depending on the country.
“The HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, particularly in Russia and Ukraine, remains the fastest growing in the world,” said Anne Aslett, Executive Director of EJAF-UK. “As other donors have withdrawn from the region, EJAF remains committed to supporting people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, and sex workers throughout the region to improve their health and protect their human rights. The EECA KP Fund is the first initiative of its kind. It aims not only to save the lives of thousands of very vulnerable people but to introduce new ways of addressing and scaling up response to the region’s expanding epidemic.”
EJAF Founder Sir Elton John said. “These investments will make a measurable difference at a pivotal moment by connecting people most vulnerable to HIV to the care they need and the compassion they deserve.”