2020 in review: Southern HIV Impact Fund

The Southern HIV Impact Fund is a collaborative project advocating for a coordinated response to HIV in partnership with community-based groups in the U.S. South. Managed by AIDS United, the fund is convened by Funders Concerned About AIDS with funding from Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, ViiV Healthcare, Levi Strauss Foundation and a generous anonymous donor.

The fund provides a combination of grants and technical assistance to community-based and social justice organizations in nine Southern states. AIDS United and the funding collaborative believe that the lives of people living with and vulnerable to HIV cannot be siloed into one issue area and therefore, organizations are expected to demonstrate how their work intersects with racial and gender justice.

Awards are made to organizations serving trans-identified and gender-nonconforming persons; Black/Latinx gay, bisexual, and queer men; other people of color; people who experience oppressive policing and mass incarceration; and reproductive justice for women of color. The Fund supports organizations across intersecting movements to enhance and coordinate HIV prevention, care and support services, and advocacy and movement-building across the South.

The South has a disproportionate burden of HIV. With an estimated 38% of the U.S. population, the South comprised 52% of all new HIV diagnoses. Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses are in the South. The region also reported the highest rate of people living with HIV are living with AIDS; survival rates from AIDS are also the lowest nationally.

In 2020, the Fund awarded $5.4 million in 66 grants to 55 organizations. With this support, grantees have provided essential and lifesaving health services and have led advocacy efforts to change laws around the country so these programs can reach more people in need. Grantee identified 10 leaders who participated in the Leadership Development Cohort. Participants were matched with a certified professional coach, completed eight coaching sessions, and received $4,500 supplemental funding for additional leadership development opportunities.

Furthermore, the fund team offered a rapid response grant for communities overwhelmed with the challenges from COVID-19 as a part of the AIDS United Relief, Recovery and Resilience Fund. A total of $167,000 were awarded to 15 organizations that the fund supports.

2020 was challenging due to the disruptions brought by COVID-19. The fund’s planned program events and monitoring activities had to be modified. The leadership cohort programs, the annual grantee meeting, and grantee’s site visits were conducted virtually. Despite these challenges, important progress resulted. The leadership cohort had the opportunity to meet nearly every month since its inception. The annual online grantee partner convening provided an opportunity to include topics like navigating COVID-19. And the fund team conducted 18 virtual site visits, more than in previous years. As a consequence of pandemic-driven adaptations, fund staff learned more about successes, opportunities for growth, and technical assistance needs from grantees.