For decades, local community planning has been critical to HIV prevention. It is also a critical part of the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative and is already shaping the development of the initiative in many important ways with the 57 priority jurisdictions developing their own locally tailored, community-driven plans.
CDC is committed to meaningful, ongoing community engagement in EHE. While the COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges, CDC is working with jurisdictions to encourage creative solutions to continue bringing old and new partners into the planning and implementation process. Community engagement is paramount to EHE success. To facilitate effective engagement, CDC:
- Developed community engagement planning guidance
- Required documentation of engagement sessions and new partners for the planning process
- Convened Regional Community Engagement Town Hall Virtual Sessions to educate, encourage, and empower the local community on the engagement and planning process
- Required jurisdictions allocate at least 25% of the total implementation funds to support planning and implementation of EHE activities by community organizations
Listening and Planning
As the national framework and implementation plans were developed, HHS agencies engaged leaders at multiple levels—during conferences; webinars; meetings with national organizations; site visits with communities; and through ongoing engagement with CDC-funded partners and organizations.
CDC leadership then traveled the country to hear input from communities and foster partnerships critical to the success of the initiative. Former CDC Director, Dr. Redfield, personally visited 38 of the 57 EHE jurisdictions. Collectively, in 2019, EHE leadership from across HHS visited nearly all of the 57 priority jurisdictions.
Feedback from these activities led to the integration of several key elements into program plans and local activities, including:
- Greater flexibility for states and local communities to design and direct approaches that best meet their needs;
- Ongoing inclusion of new, diverse partners in local planning activities;
- Greater emphasis on supporting bold, innovative efforts that overcome barriers to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment; and
- Building upon community experience that is already in the field.
In September 2019, CDC provided planning funds that enabled each area to accelerate community engagement and partnership work at the local level as they finalized local implementation plans.
Implementing in Communities
In July 2020, CDC awarded funds for these jurisdictions to begin accelerating prevention activities as part of these plans.
CDC awarded $109 million to state and local health departments to fund activities in the 50 local areas (48 counties; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Washington, D.C) that account for most new HIV infections in the U.S. and seven states with a substantial rural burden of HIV.
- This key part of EHE is a targeted infusion of resources, technology and expertise in communities most affected by HIV.
EHE requires expanded, inclusive, and sustained action to address disparities. To succeed in ending the HIV epidemic, we must confront the geographic and racial/ethnic disparities that have contributed to gaps in HIV prevention and treatment for far too long. Now more than ever, it is critical to initiate and expand efforts to address health disparities We are ramping up this initiative during an unprecedented time in public health in which resources are stretched as communities and public health workers combat two epidemics, both of which disproportionately impact the same racial and ethnic minority populations.
- The 57 priority EHE areas account for almost two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses each year among both Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos/Latinxs in the U.S.
- To promote health equity, each funding recipient will allocate resources to identify and develop specific plans to reduce disparities in their community.
- Solutions must ensure access for those in greatest need, including factors like determining how to deliver telemedicine and self-testing in ways that reach those most vulnerable.