Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the launch of The HIV Challenge, a national competition to engage communities to reduce HIV-related stigma and increase prevention and treatment among racial and ethnic minority people. The HIV Challenge is part of a new partnership between the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) and the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH).
Through this challenge, HHS is seeking innovative and effective approaches to increase the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) among people who are at increased risk for HIV or are people with HIV. The HIV Challenge is open to the public, and HHS will award a total of $760,000 to 15 winners over three phases. Phase 1 submissions are open from July 26, 2021, through September 23, 2021.
“HIV-related stigma is one of the reasons why prevention and treatment options, such as PrEP and ART, are underutilized,” said Assistant Secretary for Health, Rachel L. Levine, M.D. “The latest science shows that people living with HIV who take the proper medicine as prescribed and get and keep their HIV at an undetectable level do not transmit HIV to others.
Reducing HIV-related stigma remains a priority across federal agencies. This includes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which announced this week that PrEP must be covered by insurance plans and issuers without requiring the patient to pay out-of-pocket for a service or treatment.
“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force already recommends that clinicians offer PrEP to people who may be at high risk for HIV,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “By clarifying that this recommendation extends to their health coverage, we’re making it clear that prevention is a priority—one that can better help us see patients as people, not the sum-total of their health conditions or concerns.”
HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, but an estimated 14 percent (1 in 7) do not know it. HIV testing, early diagnosis and treatment prevents HIV and delays disease progression. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 13 to 64 years be tested for HIV.
Despite advances in HIV prevention and treatment tools, not everyone is benefiting equally. HIV disproportionately impacts men who have sex with men and African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
“The HIV Challenge will support efforts of local communities to develop and test approaches to reduce HIV-related stigma and increase the use of prevention and treatment options to decrease HIV disparities and health inequities among racial and ethnic minority populations nationally,” said RADM Felicia Collins, M.D., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and OMH Director.
The HIV Challenge will have three phases, each of which will be evaluated separately. Prizes will be awarded for each of the three phases. Challenge participants will compete for cash prizes for the design of a concept, development of an approach, and small-scale testing of their approach.
“In alignment with the National HIV Testing Day and 40th anniversary of the first CDC reporting of HIV and its themes to reenergize and reengage, The HIV Challenge will create an opportunity for on-the-ground voices to participate in developing novel innovative approaches,” said OIDP Acting Director, Kaye Hayes. “The approaches will address HIV-related stigma in ways that can be successfully implemented within their local communities and replicated in the future.”
For more information about The HIV Challenge submission requirements, deadlines, judging criteria, competition rules, prize amounts, and how to submit a proposal, can be found here.