Washington AIDS Partnership Rolls Out the DC PrEP for Women Initiative

By Caterina Gironda
Research & Communications Associate, Funders Concerned About AIDS

The Washington AIDS Partnership is an initiative of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. This piece is cross-posted from the Funders Concerned About AIDS blog. To read the full article, click here.

The Washington AIDS Partnership (WAP), in conjunction with the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration (HAHSTA), kick off their $1 million PrEP for Women Initiative this fall. Channing Wickham, Executive Director at the Washington AIDS Partnership and Chair of the Funders Concerned About AIDS Board of Directors, explains that the program emerged after identifying a lack of knowledge and access to the drug amongst African American women in D.C.

PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a drug that when taken regularly can prevent HIV infection if exposed to the virus. While the drug, approved by the FDA in 2012, has seen an uptick in use by gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), knowledge of and access to PrEP has skirted other communities.

“According to HAHSTA’s data, approximately 2.5% of D.C. residents are living with HIV,” Ashlee Wimberly, the Project Coordinator for the PrEP for Women Initiative at WAP explains. “This exceeds the 1% infection rate that the World Health Organization uses to classify a generalized epidemic.” While HIV is not new to the District, the growing rate of African American women infected is, with 1 in 6 new diagnoses occurring among African American heterosexual women, making them the second largest affected group in D.C., behind African American MSM.

As Wickham explains it, “We began asking ourselves, ‘what would a model program to fill these gaps look like?’”

With buy-in from the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, which is providing a generous $1 million, two-year grant, the D.C. PrEP for Women Initiative began.

“A major component of the Initiative will be funding to support innovative projects that address one or more of the initiative’s goals,” says Wickham:

  • Educating women who are at high risk for HIV about PrEP
  • Supporting health providers to adopt PrEP into their organizational culture and services, especially those that serve women of color (such as Federally Qualified Health Centers).
  • Building PrEP capacity by educating health care providers so they are informed about PrEP and will begin to prescribe it.

WAP is also eager to share what they learn through this process to other funders who seek to replicate or create their own initiatives. “There’s plenty of room for collaborating on this,” Wickham offers. “In fact, FCAA’s Annual Philanthropy Summit in December 2016 will feature one of the most important voices for women and PrEP, Dazon Dixon Diallo, on a panel about health equity for women of color.”

Photos courtesy of courtesy of #PrEPForHer from DC Department of Health.

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