The Elton John AIDS Foundation has awarded the School of Public Health at Georgia State University a $50,000 grant to expand a program that trains peer guides to work with high-risk populations in metro Atlanta affected by HIV/AIDS.
The new funding will prioritize recruiting transgender women to take part in 10 weeks of classroom training plus supervised internships so they can provide support to other transgender women who are newly diagnosed as HIV-positive or not receiving health care.
Dr. Donna Smith, a faculty member at the School of Public Health who is leading the project, said studies have found that transgender women are one of the groups hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. They also tend to be marginalized by society, sometimes even within the gay and lesbian community.
“In particular, transgender women of color are hardest hit in Atlanta. Some studies estimate that as many as 50-75 percent of transgender women are HIV-positive,” Dr. Smith said. “They’re often rejected by their families at a young age and disproportionately end up on the street. …And sometimes, healthcare and social service providers are notsensitive to their needs.”
Last year, the Elton John AIDS Foundation made an initial $50,000 grant to the School of Public Health for a pilot program designed to train ex-offenders, many with personal experience with drug addiction or HIV-positive status, to become peer guides and ultimately work in local health clinics, AIDS service organizations, community-based organizations, and research institutions.
That first group of peer guides has completed their initial training and will start their community internships in January.
During their internships, they will continue to meet with researchers in the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities Research (CoEx) at the School of Public Health to receive support and supplemental training.
The new cohort will start training in late spring.
To learn more about the School of Public Health’s work involving HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, go to:http://publichealth.gsu.edu/research-2/#infectious-disease.