Capacity Building Assistance: A year in review

The Capacity Building Assistance team at AIDS United provides health departments and community-based organizations with the resources they need to address the HIV epidemic in their communities. Over the last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted much of how we operate, this work has been done through a series of virtual webinars and discussions on a variety of topics. 

2021 in Review

The first virtual event the CBA team hosted was the Virtual Workshop: HIV Cluster and Outbreak Detection and Response Planning. In collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the team gathered participants for a two-day workshop on Jan. 12 and 13, 2021 to discuss how to improve cluster detections and response plans. Facilitators  guided participants through how to strengthen internal support, engage with external partners and how to meaningfully involve community members. 

The next webinar of 2021 was the Midwest CBA Symposium: the HIV Landscape during COVID-19 from Feb. 23-26, 2021. This three day virtual webinar focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged organizations to rethink and reimagine their approach to HIV prevention work. 385 people attended this discussion, with more than 30 states represented and more than 200 organizations present. The CBA team highlighted issues such as the digital divide, how access to technology can help with destigmatization, and finding support and reaching people who are impacted by HIV through social media. 

At both these events, participants had the opportunity to talk about the diverse impacts of COVID-19 on HIV programs and services.

“HIV Prevention and Care is ALWAYS changing. We have to continue to adjust our approach, and reach clients where they are at. This symposium really emphasized that,” said one participant. 

March was a busy time for the CBA team with two virtual events taking place less than two weeks apart. 

The first event in March was the Midwest Partnership Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) Convening: Sustaining and Redefining Community Relationships with B.E.S.T. Practices. This webinar focused on how people engaging in HIV work in the Midwest could actively involve community stakeholders in their work. Harold Phillips, head of the Office of National AIDS Policy, was the keynote speaker for this event. 

In collaboration with the policy department and the Syringe Access Fund, the CBA team invited health departments, community organizations and advocates across the Midwest to talk about harm reduction at their Midwest Syringe Services Programs: Virtual Institute on Mar. 30 and 31, 2021. 

Conversations centered around the evolving role of syringe services programs, the increasing rates of infectious disease and overdose in communities, and how to sustain meaningful relationships with our communities.

Participants enjoyed the accessibility of these Zoom webinars. One participant that attended the Midwest Syringe Service Programs: Virtual Institute said, “I liked that it was virtual, it was nice not having to commute long hours and stay at a hotel but still be able to hear from Midwest harm reduction programs and experts. Online helps for accessibility issues.” 

The most recent webinar put on by the CBA team was the Midwest Syringe Services Programs: Virtual Institute on Nov. 8 and 9, 2021. The CBA team kicked off this webinar with two pre-institute virtual sessions to talk about COVID-19, structural barriers of maintaining a syringe services program, the intersection of harm reduction and racial justice, and the last year of increased overdoses. At the full institute, presenters examined a wide variety of topics, including: 

  • Harm reduction vending machines;
  • Lessons learned by syringe services staff during the pandemic;
  • The intersections of harm reduction and gender-affirming care;
  • Trauma-informed development and capacity building in drug user-led organizations; and
  • Faith in harm reduction.

What’s Coming Up

From Feb. 22-25, 2022, in collaboration with San Francisco Community Health Center-Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis, the CBA team will host a series of no-cost lunch-and-learn sessions dedicated to hearing your technical assistance needs. For those who are interested in this opportunity can learn more here

Additionally, CBA will hold a training on cluster detection and response that centers health equity, but that date has yet to be decided. 

Community-based organizations and health departments are always welcome to reach out to the CBA team at to inquire about additional workshops, webinars and learning opportunities.