PUBLISHED:February 07, 2013

Ford Foundation grant allows clinic to continue AIDS research, advocacy

Duke’s AIDS Legal Project has received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation with which they will continue the policy work of the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative (SASI) within the AIDS Policy Clinic, said Professor Carolyn McAllaster. McAllaster directs the AIDS Legal Project and serves as project director for SASI.

A $150,000 grant from the Ford Foundation launched SASI in 2011. Faculty and students in the clinic work with the Duke Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research to collect and process data on such issues as infection rates, deaths, and resources available to individuals in areas hard-hit by HIV and AIDS. That research led to the release of a report detailing the rapid spread of AIDS in nine Southern states, and policy research and advocacy at the state and federal levels.

“We are continuing to advocate for increased resources to southern states where the disease burden is greatest right now,” McAllaster said. “One of our biggest successes stemming from the last grant came from our advocacy with the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for funding for the south. CDC came out with a funding initiative in the spring, providing $44 million over three years, focused on eight states, six in the south. The money will go toward decreasing HIV mortality in minority communities, and we were credited as one of the advocacy groups who made this happen.”

The latest grant will also allow students and faculty to update SASI’s research on HIV/AIDS in the South and to monitor federal assistance in the states receiving CDC funding. Two Law School students have been working on projects related to the grant since the fall semester, and McAllaster said she will likely add a third this spring.

“North Carolina will get $2 million a year for three years from the CDC, and there is a component requiring the federal government to give technical assistance across state agencies,” said McAllaster. “We want to monitor what is going on at the state level and whether the federal technical assistance is useful. So we are establishing relationships with state AIDS directors and we have a working group planning for that. That’s a big project.”

McAllaster said the new Ford Foundation grant will also help fund research into how to better treat those with HIV/AIDS. “We’re planning much more in-depth research on the epidemic in the South. We are planning to focus particularly on interventions that work to get people into care, and get them to stay in care so their viral load is suppressed, they’re not infectious to other people, and their own health is good.”