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Indiana News

Damien Center awarded $2M to prevent HIV in young transgender people of color

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The Damien Center will use the $2 million grant from the U.S. Center for Disease Control to create a program that aims to reduce new infections, increase access to care and promote health equity for young transgender persons of color ages 13-34.

Indianapolis AIDS service organization Damien Center hopes to prevent new HIV infections for young transgender people of color with a new grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nonprofit will use the $2 million grant to create a program that aims to reduce new infections, increase access to care and promote health equity for young transgender persons of color ages 13 to 34. These individuals are among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection. The majority of new infections among transgender people are among Black people, according to data from the CDC.

Damien Center President Alan Witchey said young, transgender, non-binary people of color have historically faced barriers to preventive HIV care.

“They've not had great experiences in the medical system, sometimes there's a lot of bias shown and really, it can be very intimidating and scary to go to big medical systems,” Witchey said. “This is a great opportunity to try to address those key issues, the intersection of health equity, and racial equity and LGBTQ equity. We're very excited to step up and try to make a difference with the population that needs it the most.”

The Damien Center will hire five full-time positions and partner with the Indianapolis nonprofit Trans Solutions to implement the program.

“And the goal really is for us to find people who are living with HIV out of care, get them into medical care and get them virally suppressed, because that means the virus cannot spread to somebody else,” Witchey said. “And it means that they are living healthy lives.”

The Damien Center is one of 36 community organizations nationwide awarded grants from the CDC to create high-impact HIV programs.

Contact reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @helloimdarian.
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