A Newcomer with a Famous Name Steps Up for HIV/AIDS Funding in the American South

photo: kim7/shutterstock

photo: kim7/shutterstock

Nearly a year ago, we covered a promising collaboration between the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) to support LGBTQ organizations and specifically HIV/AIDS efforts in the American South. This was big news because at that time, very few funders were paying attention to these issue in this region, despite the fact that it is home to around 44 percent of the nation’s HIV population—and yet receives less than a quarter of HIV-related philanthropy in the U.S.

Now, there’s another foundation in this mix worth paying attention to.

The Aileen Getty Foundation, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, recently teamed up with EJAF and ETAF to collectively donate $625,000 to 12 groups that are working to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in the American South. 

This is actually the fourth round of annual grants made jointly between EJAF and ETAF. But what we found most interesting about this latest collaborative commitment is the newcomer to the group. In the past, Aileen Getty has been more focused on the Los Angeles community, including founding a sustainable housing nonprofit here called Gettlove. But she’s also an ambassador to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and now is giving attention to the Southern states.

Aileen Getty started her own foundation in 2005 to join the fight against HIV/AIDS, addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. This is an issue that hits particularly close to home because Getty has HIV and brings her personal experience and famous name to the table for even greater visibility of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South. Because of Getty’s additional support, four additional grantees are receiving grants in the South this year. Funded projects are being pursued by groups in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Florida.

“Throughout my life, I’ve tried to bring empathy and a sense of community to these issues where they’re needed most,” said Aileen Getty in a press release. “By joining together with these two deeply compassionate organizations, we’re strengthening our efforts to spread kindness, hope, and action in a region that has too often been neglected.”

What also sets this new funding effort apart from others in the region is that it’s really zeroing in on the effect of HIV and AIDS on young people of and people of color. Grants are now going to inclusive youth wellness centers, youth advisor programs, advocacy programs, testing services, and mentoring programs that target these specific demographics on the local level.

It’s also interesting to note that celebrities like Kristen Chenoweth, Alabama Shakes, Kandi Buruss, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Ellen DeGeneres have all been raising awareness about this initiative on Twitter. Learn more about the funded projects and newly supported nonprofits here.