The Elton John Foundation awards research grant to the AIDS Coalition of Alabama Project

The Elton John Foundation located in New York City awarded a one-year $25K grant to the AIDS Coalition of Alabama Project (ACAP) in December 2015 to pilot an innovative HIV/AIDS research project. ACAP is made up of a coalition of organizations and individuals aimed at decreasing and preventing HIV/AIDS in African Americans in Alabama. ACAP partners include AframSouth, Inc. (Montgomery), Selma Air (Selma), Alabama State University Center for Leadership and Public Policy (Montgomery), Aletheia House (Birmingham), Central Alabama AIDS Resource & Advocacy Center (Wetumpka), Community Faith Partners (Huntsville), and persons living with HIV.

The project, “Working to Improve Sexual Education (Project WISE),” will focus on youth between the ages of 13 to 24 in Lowndes County, Alabama. Lowndes County is a poor rural Black Belt County with a population of approximately 11,299. Seventy-four percent are African American while 31.4% live in poverty with a median income of $23,050 (US Census, 2010). During three of the past five years, Lowndes County has had the largest incidence rate of HIV/AIDS in the state. Additionally, the pregnancy rate in the county for girls and women 10 to 19 years of age was higher (37.8/1000 live births) than the state average (24.2/1000 live births) (Alabama Department of Public Health, 2015).

The goal of Project WISE is to reduce the incidence rate of HIV/AIDS and prevent HIV/AIDS in Lowndes County. Using an innovative community-based approach, Project WISE will target a population that is vastly underserved in addressing and preventing HIV/AIDS. In addition, Project WISE will engage youth, youth groups, parents, school officials, churches and community leaders. A community advisory board will also be established to provide guidance for Project WISE participants.

The principle investigators for Project WISE are Associate Professor Pamela Payne Foster, MD, MPH, Department of Community and Rural Medicine and Deputy Director, Institute for Rural Health Research, College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama, and Mel Prince, executive director for Selma Air, an AIDS services organization based in Selma, Alabama, which serves rural African-American populations.