Abounding Prosperity receives $1.7 million grant

South Dallas prevention organization targets population hardest hit by new HIV infections

FUTURE MOVE? | Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity, says that his agency, now located in South Dallas across the street from the Peabody Health Center, will have to move to a bigger space to adequately house the extra staff he needs to operate the grant the agency just received from the CDC. (David Taffet/DallasVoice.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Abounding Prosperity, a South Dallas-based AIDS education organization, has been awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, and is the only agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be included in this round of CDC funding.

The money will be used to expand HIV prevention services for young gay and bisexual men of color, transgender youth of color and their partners, according to Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity.

Myers said that his organization was one of the few nationally that got fully funded. The five-year grant totals $1.7 million.

The CDC awarded prevention grants to 34 agencies around the country. This expands on an earlier program to reach the targeted populations with an increase of $10 million to $55 million nationally over five years, funding a larger number of community organizations.

“We will be trying to identify those people who are positive and unaware,” Myers said,“and help those people who are positive and know their status to become responsible for not reinfecting themselves or anyone else.

“We see ourselves as a prevention organization rather than a care organization,” he added.

Although three Dallas AIDS organizations applied for the grant money, Myers said he believes Abounding Prosperity was chosen because it targets African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 17 and 29, the group hardest hit with new infections in Dallas.

That includes many who are unemployed and underemployed.

To encourage testing and behavioral intervention, Myers suggested using incentives such as gift cards that might cover gas costs.

“Even though testing should be done routinely, you’re not worried about testing when you’re worried about your next meal,” Myers said.

In addition to testing, the focus will be on using evidence-based interventions designed to create behavior changes using techniques that have proven successful with gay men.

Myers said he will need to triple the size of his staff to nine and add more office space to operate the grant. He has already looked at two properties on MLK Boulevard near Abounding Prosperity’s current office.

Myers said that he would like to collaborate with Dallas County and other AIDS organizations’ programs to reach the most underserved populations.

He specifically mentioned Resource Center Dallas’ syphilis elimination program as an obvious partner.

“Syphilis is off the charts in Dallas,” Myers said. “And if you’re putting yourself at risk for syphilis, you’re putting yourself at risk for HIV.”

But, Myers said, his ultimate goal is to do the job of education and prevention so well that he can put Abounding Propserity out of business.

“I want to eradicate AIDS,” he said.

Ryan White funds

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $1.89 billion in grants to states for HIV/AIDS care and medications. Texas was awarded $85,856,474 in Ryan White money designated “supplemental part B.”

The state also received $786,424 in AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Emergency Relief Awards.

ADAP funding matches money spent by the state. Texas cut its ADAP funding, which may be a reason smaller states are receiving more money. Georgia and Louisiana each were awarded $3 million and Florida almost $7 million in emergency drug assistance money.

Dallas will receive $14,625,082 and Fort Worth $3,864,274 in Ryan White Part A funding. Dallas awards are administered for the region by the county. Other cities in Texas receiving these grants are Houston ($19.7 million), San Antonio and Austin ($4.4 million each).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Focusing on S. Dallas

Wiley says South Dallas AIDS Walk designed to target message of HIV awareness to a different community

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha
Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha

Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas, according to county health officials, and some of the highest morbidity rates in the county are in two zip codes: 75215 and 7521o.

Both of those zip codes are in the South Dallas area, and yet, that area remains dolefully underserved when it comes to HIV/AIDS education, outreach and awareness efforts and HIV/AIDS services, according to longtime AIDS activist and educator Auntjuan Wiley.

“When it comes to HIV services and awareness and outreach, we focus on Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. South Dallas always gets missed,” Wiley said this week. “And the only medical service provider for people with HIV in South Dallas is the Peabody Health Center.”

That’s why, when he was named executive director of the new Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation, Wiley immediately set out to find ways to fill that gap. And when he heard about the idea for an annual South Dallas AIDS Walk from Anthony Chisom, he decided right away to get involved. The first South Dallas AIDS Walk is scheduled for March 19, 2011.

The lead-up to the walk began last Thursday, Nov. 4, with a kick-off party that included Dallas City Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson and more. Wiley’s co-chair for the walk is AIDS activist Jai Makokha.

Wiley is quick to stress that the South Dallas AIDS Walk is not meant to compete — either for participants or funds — with AIDS Arms’ LifeWalk, held each year in October in Lee Park. The South Dallas event, he said, is targeting a whole different audience.

And the walk “isn’t just all about the Anthony Chisom Foundation,” Wiley added. “Some of the funds will come to us, yes. But we have other beneficiaries, too.”

Those beneficiaries, he said, include The Afiya Center, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health for women and girls; Welcome House, which provides housing and services primarily for African-Americans with HIV/AIDS; the Ugieki Foundation, which focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and education and provides an online project management system for charitable organizations; AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center; and AIDS Interfaith Network.
Wiley explained that well-known interior and floral designer Anthony Chisom began his foundation, which provides financial assistance to people with HIV to help them pay rent and utilities and buy their medications among other things, after a trip to Africa where he saw the devastation the HIV epidemic had caused there.

“He knew then that when he came home he had to do something. He had to get involved. So he started the Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation,” Wiley said.

Wiley said he and his steering committee are working to confirm Phil Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, as keynote speaker and grand marshal for the South Dallas AIDS Walk. But, he said, walk organizers need lots of sponsors, vendors, walkers and volunteers. And he hopes that many of the businesses and civil and faith community leaders in South Dallas will come on as partners in this effort.

He said the involvement of the business, civil and religious leaders will be vital to the walk’s success.

“South Dallas is, historically, a hard community to reach with the AIDS awareness and education messages,” Wiley said. “There is still a lot of the fear and stigma and shame surrounding HIV and AIDS in South Dallas that isn’t as strong any more in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. So it takes a different approach in South Dallas.

“It is very important that we have an aggressive and strategic community engagement piece to this effort. There needs to be a real conversation with the gatekeepers in this community, the community leaders,” he said. “If we can get them involved, then we have a better chance of getting our message to this community.”

Wiley said the walk will be an annual event, because a one-time thing won’t get the message across.

“You can’t go into this community just once with a message and then leave,” he said. “You have to stay there. You have to be visible. You have to let them know we care. We want them to know that this is ‘a walk in South Dallas, for South Dallas.’ That’s our theme.”

While the obvious goal is to raise awareness and funds, “it’s about a lot more than just charity and awareness. It’s about doing the work. Until there is a cure the work has to be done,” said Wiley, who this month marked his 15th year of living with AIDS and this year marked his 20th year of working in the HIV/AIDS field.
Wiley said, “This is about change. Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas. South Dallas has some of the highest infection rates in Dallas County. That has to change. It is just time for a change.”

For more information, contact Auntjuan Wiley by e-mail at a.wiley@anthonychisomaidsfoundation.org or by phone at 214-455-7316.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens