A Closer Look at How the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund Makes Grants

photo: wavebreakmedia/shutterstock

photo: wavebreakmedia/shutterstock

Giving for health causes tends to be personal and HIV/AIDS donors are a case in point. Oftentimes, the biggest donors in this space have a personal connection to the issue because of a family member or close friend. That’s certainly the case with a locally focused funder called the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, which keeps its HIV/AIDS giving within the state.

Jackie Cooper founded Jackie Cooper BMW and Jackie Cooper Electronics, but he was just as well known for his dedication to the issue of HIV/AIDS. Jackie and his wife, Barbara, established the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund in 1991 after their son died of AIDS two years earlier. While HIV/AIDS giving has become pretty common these days, the early 1990s was a time period when this was still an edgy cause, especially in places like Oklahoma.  

Although Jackie Cooper passed away in 2015, the couple’s fund still awards grants to local groups today working on HIV/AIDS. This money comes from an annual event called Red Tie Night, from which 100 percent of the proceeds go to HIV/AIDS direct services across the state. Each year tends to have a different focus with regard to the disease, and the focus for 2018 were reducing new HIV transmissions and AIDS deaths.

Surveys show that there are approximately 6,000 Oklahomans living with HIV right now, many of which do not receive care because of financial burdens, fear, or shame. Meanwhile, around 300 Oklahomans were newly diagnosed with AIDS, and 90 Oklahomans died of AIDS-related complications last year. However, the rates of new HIV diagnoses in the South are even higher in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. As we've reported, there's been an uptick in HIV/AIDS private funding in recent years in the South, but this issue remains neglected by many grantmakers. 

In the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund’s most recent grant cycle, it awarded $120,000 in total grants to be split among 13 nonprofits. These grantees included Be the Change, Guiding Right, HeartLine, and the Expressions Community Center. Although the fund does not appear to accept unsolicited grant applications, it is most interested in direct service programs. The fund is also in its second year of pursuing an advocacy program that involves educating elected officials and gaining citizen advocates about the importance of funding and prevention strategies.

Paula Love, the president of the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund said:

Without these vital services for prevention and care, far more new HIV transmissions and AIDS-related deaths would occur. Investing in HIV prevention and protecting the health of Oklahomans is our top priority.

Since 1991, the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund has given more than $12.5 million to organizations that provide HIV/AIDS services in Oklahoma.