CenterLink Partners to End the HIV Epidemic






Janelle Taveras PhD, MPH, Project Administrator LGBT HealthLink at CenterLink

CenterLink’s LGBT HealthLink continues to expand its’ capacity to improve LGBTQ health by focusing on ending the HIV epidemic and reducing HIV-related disparities that affect our diverse communities. HIV is a consequence of intersectionality of multilayered factors which include race/ethnicity, immigration, sexual orientation, gender identity, and others. Knowledge of HIV status and the health of people with HIV vary widely across the US, with Southern states generally behind other regions in some key indicators across the HIV care continuum.  As such, the highest rates of HIV diagnosis in the US are found in its’ Southern region, particularly among Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana (24.9, 22.9 and 22.9 diagnoses per 100,000 people). By the end of 2015, Southern states accounted for approximately 46% of all people with HIV, including an estimated 86% (960,351) of people aware of their infection by the end of 2015.  By 2017, most of these new diagnoses (74%) in the southern US region were people of color. Blacks/African Americans followed by Hispanics/Latinx account for the highest proportion of both new HIV diagnoses and people living with HIV. Blacks/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinx communities accounted for 43% and 16%, respectively, of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas (N= 38,739). Members of sexual or gender minority groups, in addition to racial/ethnic minority groups, result in multilayered factors of HIV susceptibility. Gay and bisexual men account for the largest portion, 67% of new HIV diagnosis in the US and an estimated prevalence of HIV among transgender individuals ranging from 7% to 44%, with increasing estimates among racial/ethnic minorities.

Under the leadership of Dr. Regina Washington, Director of LGBT HealthLink and Development Officer, CenterLink, along with three (3) additional core partners, My Brother’s Keeper, Inc (MBK), University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), Express Personal Health (EPH) Black AIDS Institute (BAI), are the co-recipients of new CDC funding for HIV capacity-building. This funding is aimed at the provision of technical assistance that supports clinical HIV testing and prevention for persons with HIV in the US southern region. Dr. Washington states, “To lead this effort in addressing the HIV epidemic for our national network, CenterLink has on-boarded HIV expert, Dr. Janelle Taveras, as the LGBT HealthLink Project Administrator.” Her more than 13 years of experience in the field of HIV include program planning and implementation, project coordinating, research and evaluation work for several CDC funded HIV/AIDS programs and projects within the Florida Department of Health. She has also been heavily involved in both the local and state Integrated Planning process since 2013 (Broward County and Florida, respectively). Through her work, Janelle has practiced knowledge of HIV epidemiology and surveillance, research and program development and coordination, biomedical interventions, HIV patient care systems, quality improvement, and multifaceted monitoring and evaluation methods. In addition, Janelle has participated in several studies at the AIDS Prevention Program at Florida International University designed to reduce HIV risk behaviors among vulnerable populations of adolescents, severely mentally ill adults, and recovering drug abusers. She has been a guest speaker on the topics of Behavioral Epidemiology, Public Health Surveillance, HIV and Millennials, and Health Equity. Janelle is a double graduate from Florida International University with both a Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology, where her dissertation work was focused on HIV risk behaviors, previous HIV testing, and positivity among Hispanic women tested for HIV in Florida.

As a coalition of over 220 LGBTQ community centers across the United States, CenterLink is well positioned to respond to the HIV epidemic by supporting these centers and addressing the challenges faced by the communities they serve. CenterLink’s mission is to develop strong, sustainable LGBTQ community centers and build a thriving center network that creates healthy, vibrant communities. Providing technical assistance and capacity building around HIV will require the consideration of comprehensive needs of the LGBTQ community. In the provision of holistic services to communities that are at significant risk of acquiring HIV, three issues will be emphasized: 1.) Increased attention and funding to these priority populations, 2.) meaningfully engaging these communities to be a part of the decision-making process, and 3.) utilizing appropriate evaluation indicators to measure progress. The work of this project will support the HIV prevention efforts in serving HIV-negative persons at greatest risk for HIV infection which includes blacks/African Americans; Hispanics/Latinos; all races/ethnicities of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM); people who inject drugs (PWID); transgender persons and other vulnerable populations. CenterLink’s role in this project is imperative in reaching LGBTQ communities that may be at significant risk of acquiring HIV and ensuring equity in HIV prevention services for these respective populations.

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