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Emell Adolphus, The South End: Lack of funding causes HIV prevention program to close

Lack of funding causes HIV prevention program to close
by Emell Adolphus, October 4, 2011

REC Boyz has reached more than 5,000 high-risk youth in Detroit, AIDS Partnership Michigan reports

Free HIV testing during Campus Health Week has been put at risk after it was announced thatAIDS Partnership Michigan will close its RECBoyz Prevention program.

“I have seen board members angry before, but I have never seen them cry,” said Barbara Murray, executive director of AIDS Partnership Michigan in a press release announcing the closing of the REC Boyz program. “It has been the most highly impactful and game-changing program this agency has had the opportunity to operate.”

REC Boyz, an HIV prevention project for black homosexual men, was scheduled to do the freeHIV/AIDs testing at Wayne State for Campus Health week. APM has since had to change those plans in light of the programs closing.

“We are going to employ some other staff to do the testing at those sites,” APM Associate Executive Director of Prevention Services Henry Millbourne said about the free HIV/AIDS testing.

As for whether the REC Boyz project could be brought back, Millbourne said the answer lies in the funding.

“Right now the agency is not in a position to fund that program without that level of additional funding,” Millbourne said. “But we are trying everything we can.”

REC Boyz costs about $31,000 dollars a month to operate, and the program received about $369,497 dollars annually from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention through a five-year grant that started in October 2006.

Millbourne added that the REC Boyz staff and supporters have met this closing with a protest outside of their building located at East Jefferson Avenue and St. Aubin Street in Detroit.

According to information provided by APM, REC Boyz has served more than 300 young men and transgendered persons ages 13 to 24 using a peer leadership model developed by the University of California San Francisco Center for AIDs Prevention Studies.

After applying for a new grant in March 2011, the REC Boyz program received a pre-decisional site visit in August from the CDC but has yet to receive a final decision, forcing the program to close. The five-year grant ended Sept. 30.

During its grant period, APM said in a press release that the REC Boyz project has reached more than 5,000 high-risk youth in Detroit with informational sessions, outreach activities, skill building workshops and discussion groups.

“We will continue our prevention services, including HIV counseling and testing, from our main office at 2751 E. Jefferson (Ave.) and with our fellow collaborators in the fight against HIV,” Murray said.

Murray also said APM has received smaller grants totaling about $50,000 to reach its target African-American population.

“This is what we do,” Murray said. “The battle continues.”

AIDS Partnership Michigan was founded in 1983, and the agency operates a wraparound continuum of HIV care and prevention services, including medical case management, mental health services, early intervention services, the Michigan AIDS Hotline and community mobilization utilizing social media with an annual operating budget of $2 million.

“Due to this change, we have had to shuffle things around,” said Paula Mohyi, founder of Students for the Reduction of AIDS/STIs, a student organization that helps local AIDS and awareness programs. “As of now, the AIDS Coalition has agreed to do the testing.”

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