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Minority AIDS Initiative Wraps Up Its Virtual Learning Session Series

Michael Latady, Linkage to Care Coordinator at Allies for Health + Wellbeing, a MAI partner agency.

As the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) virtual learning session series ends, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) HIV/AIDS program team comes away inspired. 11 MAI partner agencies responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by quickly adapting their services and finding creative alternatives to in-person outreach. These actions furthered MAI's mission of eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health and re-engaging people living with HIV who have been lost to care. Successful transition to virtual programming was crucial, as the population MAI serves is at high risk for COVID-19.

Starting in April, the biweekly learning session series offered 25-35 frontline workers the opportunity to share experiences of adapting service provision during the pandemic. Agencies reported decreased medical visit no-show rates and increased client attendance due to removed transportation barriers. This has been especially helpful to those living in isolation or rural Pennsylvania. Several agencies also identified an increase in client requests for overall mental health resources. In response, they incorporated conversations about managing COVID-19 stress and anxiety into their HIV care education – which one agency called "mental health hygiene."

To support these continued efforts, learning series attendees accessed education and resources relevant to current agency needs, covering topics including transitioning to telehealth, data collection and analysis, mental health, strategies for prison linkages, and self-care and meditation. The MAI team worked with partner agencies individually to discuss data collection methods to understand how COVID-19 is affecting their organizations. One agency's preliminary findings showed that despite the shift to working remotely, they still offered over 9,000 wellness checks, completed 3,700 essential referrals to food, legal, housing resources and more, and continued to provide support for incarcerated clients.

As JHF rounds out the 2019 grant year, data collected from the MAI partner agencies show that over 6,000 hours of outreach services were provided to 1,039 minority and 293 White/Caucasian clients, and 411 minority and 190 White/Caucasian clients received nearly 1,600 hours of health education and risk reduction services. JHF will continue to monitor data and support grantees through virtual learning platforms as everyone navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.

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