Challenge Grant Projects Boldly Move Forward

May 29, 2012

AIDS Foundation of Chicago Announces 11 New Challenge Grants to Fund a Diverse and Innovative Group of Public Health Projects
The grants, made possible by the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, meet needs in every part of Chicago.

In the South Shore neighborhood, a home for the chronically ill and homeless is extending much-needed employment services and HIV outreach for others in the community.

In the far western suburbs, a clinic is enhancing its ability to screen high-risk patients for anal cancer.

Those are just two examples of the 11 diverse and innovative projects that have been funded in part by Challenge Grants, facilitated by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC).  Announced this spring, the two-year grants are swiftly becoming a reality of social change as organizations lay groundwork for each project. The Challenge Grants are made possible, in part, from money raised from the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, scheduled for Sept. 30 at Soldier Field.


The winners of the competitive grant process represent diversity in both region and mission, said Cynthia Tucker, AFC’s director of prevention and community partnerships.

“This is a broad range of projects that focus on making our HIV sector stronger,” Tucker said. “They are very innovative, crossing the lines of testing, prevention, care, housing and employment. They’re about more than HIV, they are ‘HIV plus’ which is how it should be.”

A total of $250,000 was awarded among 12 different organizations, with the average grant size of $20,000. The winning grant proposals were selected by AFC’s Grantmaking Committee, comprising eight AFC Board members, one Board Emeritus member, one outside research evaluator and four AFC staff members.

Each Challenge Grant recipient works with a technical adviser from AFC to develop the plan.

One example of an innovative project is the Bettendorf Place, the new Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry supportive living facility for 27 people who deal with challenges such as chronic diseases, homelessness mental illness and substance abuse. Most of the residents are HIV-positive.

The Bettendorf opened its doors in August 2011. The Challenge Grant enhances the Alexian Brothers’ ability to engage the South Shore community. For example, the Bettendorf has begun to offer GED courses and computer classes open to anyone. There will also be focused outreach efforts and HIV-related community forums.

“The Bettendorf Place, and its ability to do community outreach work, is so important because there’s really nothing else like that in the South Shore neighborhood. And the need for it is immense,” said Melanie Paul, AFC Supportive Housing Services Coordinator, who is serving as a technical advisor for the project.

In the far western suburbs of Elgin and Aurora, the Open Door Clinic now has expanded capacity to test for anal cancer among high-risk patients, specifically HIV-positive gay/bisexual men and HIV-positive women with a history of abnormal cervical pap tests.

Prior to the Challenge Grant, the Open Door Clinic was limited in its ability to freely test and follow up with high-risk patients. The Challenge Grant pays for 50 anal pap tests, a machine used to perform anoscopies  — a follow-up test that may involve biopsies — and training a Nurse Practitioner to perform the procedure.

The Open Door project is critical because of the scarcity of anal cancer screenings and follow-up services in the western suburbs, said Daliah Mehdi, AFC’s chief clinical officer who is serving as the project’s technical adviser.

And the Challenge Grant opens the door to sustainability, Mehdi said.

“Because there are so few resources in the region, they’ll be able to reach out to other medical providers and offer their services,” she said. “That’s important because it could fund the screenings in continuity.”

Challenge Grants are funded by two of AFC’s fundraising events — World of Chocolate, on Nov. 29, and the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. The latter is swiftly approaching and benefits more than 30 HIV/AIDS organizations in the Chicagoland area through its CommunityDirect program.

To be eligible for a Challenge Grant, organizations must have participated in the CommunityDirect program and met minimum fundraising requirements.

All Challenge Grantees received $20,000 a year for a two year program period. Here’s a list of each recipient and a brief summary of the project:

1.    Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry, the Bettendorf Place. Increase housing and engage community members in the South Shore neighborhood with healthy activities and educational resources.

2.    Chicago House and Social Service Agency. Provide skills training and job training to address key factors of poverty and lack of accessible employment that contribute to health disparities.

3.    Heartland Health Outreach. This grant supports a care coordination project that will provide training opportunities and enhance relationships in the North Side’s care coordination system.

4.    AIDS Legal Council. Make health and income assistance programs more accessible for people living with HIV and mental illness.

5.    New Age Services Corporation. Implement the integration program for HIV and IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) program that will provide HIV testing, individual and group counseling and referral services for individuals who are currently or at risk for both HIV and IPV.

6.    Open Door Clinic. Enhance primary care needs of the clients and develop benchmarks in the screening and detection of anal cancer.

7.    Test Positive Aware Network. Provide psychosocial support, peer health navigation and a continuum of integrated services appropriate for each client.

8.    The Night Ministry. Expand HIV outreach on the South Side, using innovative approaches to reach Black and Latino LGBT youth and providing outreach, prevention education, counseling, testing and linkage to care.

9.   University of Illinois at Chicago, Community Outreach Intervention Project. Strengthen the relationship between the HIV/AIDS Community Clinic and COIP to provide medical care, case management, HIV counseling and testing and needle exchange services at seven clinic sites.

10.    Young Women’s Empowerment Project. The Syringe Exchange Expansion for Youth is a collaboration between the YWEP and Broadway Youth Center to create syringe exchange expansion for youth, including homeless, street based, injectors and youth involved with the sex trade.

11.    South Side Help Center. The Healthy is Sexy (H.I.S.) Lifestyle Cooperative is a holistic community health project designed to increase access to culturally-sensitive medical and mental health services for black gay men through group wellness programming.

Founded in 1985 by community activists and physicians, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is a catalyst for local, national, and international action against HIV/AIDS.
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Media contact: Greg Trotter, (312) 334-0913

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