AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) has awarded eight grantstotaling $72,000to BIPOC-led organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Black and Latinx neighborhoods across Chicago.
The grants came from AFC's Learning Circle Collaborative (LCC), a program that works directly with BIPOC-led organizations serving marginalized communities suffering most from the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"The idea of the Learning Circle Collaborative is to prepare [these organizations] for partnerships with AFC and other funders so that we can increase the city's services and end the HIV epidemic," said AFC Senior Vice President of Prevention and Community Partnerships Cynthia Tucker. "We really believe that small, community-based organizations serve an important component in the fight against HIV."
Chicago's Black community currently makes up nearly 60% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses, according to Chicago Public Health data. Tucker said community-based organizations are the "vehicles" for HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment in the hardest-hit areas of the city, so strengthening partnerships with these groups is the key to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"These organizations, a lot of times, are struggling to get funding and to stay afloat," Tucker said. "Many of these organizations are doing phenomenal work, but they just need a bit of assistance with their infrastructure."
The grants were awarded to Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Global Girls Inc., Life is Work, Lighthouse Foundation, Lorde, Rustin & Bates, Proactive Community Services, Project Vida and Taskforce Prevention & Community Services.
These grants will be used to increase fundraising capacity, strengthen board development, develop and facilitate effective communication strategies, institute strategic planning processes and expand access to COVID-19 vaccine information.
The funds for this round of grants came from donors who attended an event in early October at Tucker's home in Bronzeville. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation also provided some of the money for the grants to be used specifically for COVID-19 resources.
"We just decided to couple it together because we know the same organizations providing critical work around HIV are also doing COVID-19 training and education," Tucker said.
Chicago Public Health data shows the Black community makes up about 60% of COVID-19-related deaths, meaning the same communities hit hardest by HIV/AIDS are also suffering disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tucker said BIPOC-led organizations can meet people where they are and offer solid information about COVID-19 precautions to those living in communities facing higher vaccine hesitancy and limited access to healthcare.
"If I'm someone in the community, I might not go for medical treatment during the pandemic, but I'm still going to my local food pantry," Tucker said. "The idea is, while I'm at that organization, I can get some information and resources about COVID-19 vaccines that will help save me and my family."
Alongside its distribution of grants, LCC hosts group training and tailored one-on-one sessions to help organizations improve their communications, funding development and talent management.
"A lot of times organizations, small organizations do not have a communications department just because it's so small, so we really try to make sure that they have access to some of the information and the strategies that will assist them in getting information out," Tucker said.
LCC's next project will be a pitch competition, where organizations can access training on how to successfully share their stories with potential funders, Tucker said.
For more information about LCC, see www.aidschicago.org/page/our-work/capacity-building/learning-circle-collaborative .