HHS Selects Phase 3 Winners of the National Competition to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Disparities

Content From: Office Of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human ServicesPublished: November 04, 20225 min read


Cross-posted from OMH Newsroom


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), in partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP), is announcing the three winners of the final phase of the HIV Challenge. The HIV Challenge, launched in July 2021, is designed for individuals, communities, and community-based organizations to identify innovative and practical approaches to reduce HIV stigma and disparities and increase the uptake of HIV prevention and treatment among racial and ethnic minority communities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, but one in seven of those are not aware of their infections. HIV can affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live. In the U.S., racial and ethnic minority populations have higher rates of new HIV infections and HIV diagnoses, and lower awareness of and adherence to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication and antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV-related stigma contributes to poor uptake of prevention tools and treatment. Despite the advancements in HIV prevention and treatment tools, not everyone is benefiting equally from these advances. New infections are highly concentrated among men who have sex with men and racial and ethnic minority individuals, especially African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

“There are now more options than ever to reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, such as testing, early diagnosis, and treatment,” said Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, M.D., HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and OMH Director. “I applaud the efforts of our Phase 3 winners who have demonstrated their commitment to reducing HIV-related stigma and improving the use of PrEP and ART."

“My office has truly appreciated the opportunity to partner with OMH on this HIV Challenge,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infectious Disease and OIDP Director, Kaye Hayes. “We are thrilled with the level of commitment, energy, and innovation from all of the community participants.”

The HIV Challenge is divided into three phases with a total award of $760,000. In the first phase, 15 proposals for community engagement strategies to reduce HIV-related stigma were selected from more than 80 submissions to advance to the next phase. In the second phase, those 15 participants expanded upon their winning concepts from Phase 1 by developing approaches that can enhance community engagement and mobilization approaches to reduce HIV stigma and disparities.

In Phase 3, the seven Phase 2 winners conducted small-scale testing on the dissemination and uptake of their approaches to demonstrate how well the target population would access the approaches. A panel of federal employee judges selected three Phase 3 participants as the overall HIV Challenge winners to receive a prize of $60,000 each. The winners are expected to use their prize funds to present their project findings and participate in post-award activities within six months after the end of the competition. To view the full details of the HIV Challenge, visit https://www.challenge.gov/?challenge=reduce-hiv-related-stigma.

The Phase 3 winners are:


Miguel Bujanda

Miguel Bujanda of REACH LA focused on engaging Black and Latino gay/bisexual men, transgender women, and non-binary individuals ages 13-39 in Los Angeles County, minority communities most at risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV. REACH LA produced a video montage using popular music videos and social media for their education and outreach campaign to persuade Black and Latinx communities to get tested, access PrEP, understand U=U, achieve viral suppression, and reduce HIV health disparities and stigma.


Edison College of Nursing and Health Innovation

PrEP has tremendous implications for ending the HIV epidemic, but women have been largely excluded from messaging to promote this prevention option. Working with a community advisory board in South Carolina, Alyssa Robillard of the Edison College of Nursing and Health Innovation produced a community-built, scripted, culture-centric story based on the cultural narratives of Black women living with HIV. Social media will be used for story dissemination to promote HIV testing as a gateway to PrEP for Black women.


Aima Ahonkhai

Young Black men in Tennessee are the least likely to engage in HIV care after diagnosis and die from HIV at 6.4 times the rate of their White counterparts. Aima's team developed the framework for a multifaceted HIV stigma reduction intervention, Cutting Out Stigma, that integrates HIV-focused education for Black barbers serving predominantly racial and ethnic minority communities, and a multimedia campaign in regions across Tennessee heavily burdened by HIV.

Reflecting on the potency of HIV stigma in the community, barbers stressed a critical need to reframe this narrative while expressing an eagerness to play a role in the process. Further, they identified a need for focused HIV training to equip barbers to have conversations about HIV in the barbershop along with audiovisual displays about HIV as a tool to spark the conversations.


The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides public health and science advice to the Secretary, and oversees the Department’s broad-ranging public health offices, whose missions include minority health, HIV policy, women’s health, disease prevention, human research protections, and others. OASH also includes the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

The HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. Through its demonstration projects, OMH supports the identification of effective approaches for improving health outcomes and promotes the dissemination and sustainability of these approaches.

The OASH Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) mission is to provide strategic leadership and management, while encouraging collaboration, coordination, and innovation among federal agencies and stakeholders, to reduce the burden of infectious diseases.