The Office of Minority Health announced phase one winners of The HIV Challenge, a national competition seeking innovative approaches to reduce HIV-related stigma and increase prevention and treatment among minority communities. The HIV Challenge provides an opportunity for individuals and organizations to develop novel, innovative approaches for implementation within their local communities. It consists of three phases for concept design, approach development, and refinement with small-scale testing.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and core VIGH faculty member Aimalohi "Aima" Ahonkhai, MD, MPH, was one of the 15 winners to receive a prize of $20,000 and will advance to the challenge's second phase. Her proposal focuses on novel strategies utilizing barbers and barbershops to improve HIV care outcomes for Black men with HIV in Middle Tennessee.
“Our partnership with Streetworks LLC and barbers in Middle Tennessee has been one of the most motivating research experiences I have had. Our community partners and the barbers themselves have helped me and my team to think outside of the box to meet the needs of young Black men living with HIV in our region, and I am very excited that the HIV challenge will allow me to explore and test these novel ideas” said Ahonkhai.
In the U.S., racial and ethnic minority populations have higher HIV diagnoses and lower prevention awareness, treatment initiation, and adherence rates. HIV-related stigma contributes to poor uptake of prevention tools and treatment. Reducing new HIV infections involves community engagement and mobilization strategies to address stigma among at-risk groups.