2020 in review: Midwest Capacity Building Assistance

The Strengthening Integrated Approaches to High Impact Prevention in the Midwest Program, or shortened to the Midwest Capacity Building Assistance program, is a 5-year $4 million cooperative agreement funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide technical assistance to strengthen high-impact HIV prevention efforts to Midwest states.

Under the program, AIDS United partners with the San Francisco Community Health Center-Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis. As part of the Midwest technical assistance regional team, AIDS United provides technical expertise to health departments and community organization’s ability to optimally plan, integrate, implement and sustain comprehensive HIV prevention programs and services. The objectives of this 5-year effort are to: reduce new HIV infections in the Midwest, increase access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV (including achieving and sustaining viral suppression), reduce HIV-related health disparities and health inequities, and achieve a more coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic.

Undoubtedly, 2020 was a year with significant challenges to the delivery of technical assistance. COVID-19 not only created a barrier for in-person assistance, but also created resource constraints within many health departments across the Midwest region. As a result, AIDS United had to transition to online delivery and establish creative ways to interact with participants to solicit meaningful and generative exchanges via virtual platforms. Throughout it all, the team remained mindful and steadfast to the needs of the technical assistance recipients, working in partnership to navigate the barriers and challenges that emerged because of the pandemic.

AIDS United worked in partnership with health departments and community-based organizations to effectively move HIV prevention efforts forward amid the pandemic. The team remained responsive to technical assistance requests, 18 in total, on a range of topics including: jurisdictional Ending the HIV Epidemic community engagement, cluster detection and response, social determinants of health, condom distribution, and social marketing and social media strategies. 

Overall, the team provided technical assistance to more than 130 people. Additionally, AIDS United convened two syringe services program Institutes. The first was in March 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, attended by more than 150 people, and the second was a virtual institute in September 2020 with the participation of more than 260 attendees from across the region. Both institutes explored strategies for strengthening the infrastructure of organizations in the Midwest, cultural humility, syringe access funding and sustainability, community engagement, and the effects of COVID-19 among syringe service programs in the region.

In August 2020, AIDS United was awarded supplemental funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide technical assistance to the seven phase one Midwest state and county health department jurisdictions to develop and implement Ending the HIV Epidemic plans. These supplemental funds supported the provision of technical assistance to strengthen the engagement of new and nontraditional local partners in the development and implementation of EHE plans. The supplemental award period was from August 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021.