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For decades, local community planning has been critical to HIV prevention. Community engagement is also paramount to the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative and has already shaped the initiative in many important ways. The 57 priority jurisdictions have developed their own locally tailored, community-driven plans to lay the foundation for scaling up the initiative’s key strategies in ways that meet local needs, reduce health disparities, and achieve health equity in communities.
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 longstanding and new partners into the planning and implementation process. 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.
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
A key part of EHE is a targeted infusion of resources, technology and expertise in communities most affected by HIV. In July 2020, CDC awarded $109 million for these jurisdictions to begin accelerating prevention activities as part of these plans, and in July 2021 CDC awarded $117 to continue the work.
Addressing Disparities and Achieving Health Equity
Racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities have contributed to HIV prevention gaps for far too long. EHE is working to address these disparities and achieve health equity through a comprehensive approach that focuses on providing resources where they are needed the most, and meeting people where they are with the services they need. Over 60% of new HIV diagnoses in 2019 for both African American and Hispanic/Latino people were in EHE’s 57 priority jurisdictions.
This includes acknowledging the root causes that contribute to these disparities, such as poverty, unequal access to health care, limited education and employment opportunities, stigma, and systemic racism and homophobia, and working to implement policies, practices, and programs that help overcome these obstacles.
Longstanding inequities continue to contribute to severe disparities among people with HIV. EHE encourages a comprehensive, whole-person approach to care that provides treatment and prevention and addresses core needs and the social determinants of health that contribute to disparities.
CDC is also working to expand approaches that address the interconnected epidemics like sexually transmitted infections (STIs), viral hepatitis, and injection drug use—and reduce the burden of multiple health threats that disproportionately affect same groups.