Shelby County awarded millions in federal funding to fight new HIV infections

Shelby Co. approves nearly $2.5M in HIV funding

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Nearly $2.4 million was approved this month in federal funding for HIV programs in Memphis. Shelby County is part of President Trump’s campaign to lower HIV infection rates across the country.

HIV no longer comes with the death sentence once associated with the infection in the 1980s. That’s thanks to advancements in medicine.

HIV-positive individuals can be medically compliant, which means they can’t transmit the disease, according to new research by the CDC.

Yet, despite these improvements, Memphis is ranked eighth in the nation for new transmissions of HIV.

“What people don’t understand is that people are still contracting HIV and people are still dying from AIDS in Memphis,” said Diane Duke, executive director of Friends for Life.

Friends for Life is the largest service provider for people living with HIV in mid-south. The organization connects HIV-positive residents with medicine, housing, food and education.

Duke believes the stigma wrapped around HIV keeps the transmission rate high.

“As we open these conversations up, more and more we will find that the rates of HIV will start to lower” she said.

Shelby County is one of 48 counties President Trump is targeting with a new campaign in an effort to reduce new HIV infections to less than 3,000 per year by 2030. Now with the nearly $1 million of federal funding approved last Monday by Shelby County Commissioners for Friends for Life, Duke says they are able to help cover the cost of medication for people living with HIV to allow them to be medically compliant.

“In order to do that we are going to have to do a lot of education. We need to educate people and do some social change here,” said Duke.

Soon that medication will be dispensed through Friends for Life’s new clinic opening in October in Cooper Young.

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