Keeping Funds Local to Promote Effective Change in Access to HIV Care

Friends for Life, Special to Focus Mid-South | photo by Ray Rico

Thanks to Memphis LGBT+ advocate Jerred Price, The Elton John AIDS Foundation is the recipient of the Focus Awards 2020 People’s Choice prize. The $2500 cash donation and a $5000 advertising spend were awarded by Price to the group to support local work in the Mid-South.

“Having a grant that allows for marketing and cash is just fabulous because most funding dollars awarded are restricted to programmatic items. We [The Elton John AIDS Foundation] are excited to have the opportunity to showcase the work in Memphis and help promote effective change in HIV access to care.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation then awarded the prize to Friends for Life (FFL). The funds and ads will be used to support the important collaborative work that FFL does in the community. The funds will be used to support crucial HIV prevention services in Shelby County, Tenn. FFL currently provides weekly services at two needle exchange projects that provide harm reduction services to a total of about 200 individuals.

Presence at these harm reduction events allows engagement in risk reduction education, HIV/HCV testing, linkage to care, and PrEP and PEP navigation. Most Persons Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) who utilize local Syringe Service Programs (SSPs) services self-identify as experiencing homelessness or transient housing. The debilitating housing status, paired with generally weakened immune systems, reduced access to food, and minimal access to healthcare
puts these individuals at an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

FFL established continuous service partnerships with SSPs in Shelby County in August 2019. FFL’s local SSP partner is A Betor Way. Since the Covid Pandemic reached Shelby County in March 2020, the overdose and death rates among PWIDs in south-west Tennessee have doubled.

Funds will be used for table rent at events and for much- needed harm reduction and prevention supplies in these outreach settings.