Evaluating the Rural HIV/AIDS Planning Grant Program
While the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in largely urban areas in the U.S., it has become increasingly prominent in rural communities during the last decade. In 2018, 21% of HIV/AIDS diagnoses occurred in rural areas. There are regional disparities to consider, as well, with highest rates (15.6 per 100,000) and most diagnoses (51%) occurring in the South. Further, racial disparities in HIV/AIDS rates mean that the burden of this disease is borne disproportionately by Black Americans.
The many thousands of rural residents living with HIV/AIDS need consistent access to timely, high-quality health care in order to manage their symptoms and live full lives. Given the reality of consistently documented barriers in access to care for rural individuals, additional support may be needed for small, rural organizations to effectively provide healthcare services to those in their communities living with HIV/AIDS. One source of support comes from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, which funds and administers the Rural HIV/AIDS Planning Grant program. This program targets seven states with a disproportionate number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses among rural residents and assists grantees in the development of an integrated rural HIV health network for HIV care and treatment.
It is important to examine the unique geographical context of a spectrum of vital services (from physical to mental health) provision to those living with HIV/AIDS in rural areas. Our specific purpose will be to understand any barriers or facilitators to success among the 2020 cohort of grantees. Understanding these may be key in planning for future grants and may also inform future policies and programs aimed at addressing rural HIV/AIDS.