Georgia State Receives $50,000 from Elton John AIDS Foundation for Work with Ex-Offenders

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has awarded the School of Public Health at Georgia State University a $50,000 grant to support training of ex-offenders to work with high-risk populations affected by HIV/AIDS.

As a result, neighborhoods in metro Atlanta will be better able to provide vital care to those populations that are hardest to reach, and ex-offenders will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful employment.

The six-month pilot program will lead to the training of a dozen peer guides and ultimately to their employment in local health clinics, AIDS service organizations (ASOs), community-based organizations and research institutions.

“Traditionally, HIV screening is performed at clinical sites or at venues that are deemed places of potential risk,” said Donna Smith, a faculty member at the School of Public Health, who is leading the project. “Peer guides trained through this program will provide education, testing and linkage to care outside of clinical settings.”

The program will consist of a supervised internship as well as 10 four-hour training modules designed to enhance peer guides’ ability to help HIV-positive persons navigate social and medical services and provide HIV testing, counseling and education in high-risk communities. The intensive training period will be followed by a 10 week, 15-hour-a-week internship at a local ASO that has a need for linkage to care specialists.

While the peer guides are fulfilling their internship, they will continue to meet with Georgia State researchers in the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities Research (CoEx) at the School of Public Health. CoEx faculty and researchers will meet regularly with the peer guides to provide support for them in their internship experiences, as well as supplemental training.

“We are grateful for the support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation as we continue to build the types of university-community partnerships and interventions that will help populations that might otherwise go underserved,” said Michael P. Eriksen, dean of the School of Public Health.