What the Latest Grants from the EJAF Tell Us About the Ongoing AIDS Challenge

The Elton John AIDS Foundation closed out 2014 in fine fashion last month when it announced the disbursement of more than $3.2 million in new grants. This brings the Foundation’s total grant layout in 2014 to over $6 million.

That's pretty excellent when you consider that this is a community and advocacy foundation relying on the generosity of its donors. “At the end of the day, EJAF is not an endowed foundation. We’re only as successful as the amount of funds we can raise each year,” says Scott Campbell, EJAF executive director. “That keeps us in touch with the challenges that all these people are facing.”  

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At this particular time and place, the folks most challenged by AIDS are marginalized populations, so that’s mainly where EJAF is sending its money, even as John has sounded the alarm about complaceny among gay men about HIV, as reported in the fall

New HIV infections have receded to the periphery of American life, to the most underprivileged, marginalized populations. New cases happen in prisons, and in brothels, and among those who inject drugs. It’s at the point, says Campbell, when the AIDS issue is inextricably tied to other societal issues like poverty and racial inequality. “The problems are intersectional,” he says. “If [your organization] says it’s interested in poverty but you’re not talking about HIV, then I don’t think you’re that interested in poverty, you know?”

So EJAF’s 2014 giving is divided into subcategories designed to tackle populations where AIDS is at its most entrenched:

  • The Health and Rights of Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People. Grants from this group include renewal grants for over 20 LGBTQ-focused programs; one additional national LGBTQ grant to the Third Wave Fund, and several new locally-focused grants.
  • Sexual Health and Rights of Young Adults. This group includes renewal awards to leading youth advocacy and service organizations such as Hetrick Martin, Queerocracy, and JASMYN, and a new grant to Friends for Life in Memphis
  • The Health and Rights of Black Americans. 2014 grants include renewal awards to groups such as Positive Women's Network and the Medical AIDS Outreach Selma Project, and new grants to several small local black-led organizations such as Guiding Right in Oklahoma and Central Louisiana AIDS Support Services.
  • The Health of People Who’ve Been Incarcerated. Grants to this group include awards include the ACLU National Prisons Project and Emory University's Center for the Health of Incarcerated People.
  • HIV Policy and Advocacy. Grants to this group include two new grants awarded to the Desiree Alliance to elevate the issue of HIV among sex worker rights activists and to the University of Toronto International Human Rights Program to improve Canada's refugee, asylum, and immigration policies for people who are HIV+ or LGBT.

"The Elton John AIDS Foundation is committed to confronting HIV/AIDS where it exists," said John. "We recognize that the health needs and rights of LGBTQ people are critical components to ending HIV in the United States. The foundation also recognizes the lack of funding and leadership in this area and is rising to the challenge to meet this need."