Fight against AIDS gets $211,280 boostAIDS hasn’t gone away. It killed an estimated 17,000 people across the nation last year and has killed about 566,000 in the U.S. since it began. (These are corrected numbers from an earlier version of this story.)
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
AIDS hasn’t gone away.
It killed an estimated 17,000 people across the nation last year and has killed about 566,000 in the U.S. since it began.
That’s why groups like the Rural AIDS Action Network (RAAN) need funding to make people aware of the disease, how to combat it and to care for the people who get it.
Funds for this community-based organization, which has an office in Alexandria, are used to serve and support persons living with, affected by or at risk for HIV/AIDS in rural Minnesota.
One important aspect of the Alexandria office is that it offers free and confidential testing all the time.
RAAN, which is working to raise awareness and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in greater Minnesota, recently found out it will be receiving a major four-year HIV prevention grant from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
For the next four years, starting in January of 2009, RAAN will receive a $211,280 grant. The money will help fund programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races, and for those who are at risk of contracting the HIV virus.
In its continuing efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, MDH is awarding HIV prevention grants to 16 different agencies. The grants will begin in January of 2009 and will initiate a new four-year funding cycle.
“We’re pleased to receive this grant, which will sustain our commitment to prevent as many new HIV infections as possible within the rural communities hardest hit by this epidemic,” said Charles Hempeck, executive director of RAAN.
The money RAAN receives will be used to offer a number of outreach, prevention and education programs, including HIV testing and counseling services that follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation for more universal testing.
The MDH received a total of 57 proposals from 38 different agencies. About $6.2 million in state and federal money will be awarded over the four-year period to support and fund 22 programs from the 16 agencies.
MDH noted that funding decisions were based on target populations identified within the statewide HIV prevention plan and recommendations submitted by a 47-member community proposal review committee that reviewed the applications.
Approximately 13 percent of Minnesota HIV/AIDS cases are in rural areas, compared with 8 percent nationally.
Hempeck said testing and diagnosing in rural areas, such as Alexandria, is important. One of the reasons is because nearly 30 percent of HIV-positive people are unaware that they are even infected.
He noted that people may be symptom-free for up to a decade, continuing to unknowingly infect others with the virus.
To determine your risk factor for contracting HIV, please visit RAAN’s Web site at www.raan.org. In addition, RAAN has established a toll-free hotline – 1-800-966-9735.
Diane Hermes is the case manager for West Central Minnesota, which includes Douglas County. She can be reached at the Alexandria office at (320) 762-7226 or toll-free at 1-877-536-7226.