San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF) and Corazón San Antonio are excited to announce their newest community impact collaboration “SAAF Spaces with Corazón,” in partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This two-year, $500,000 grant will help SAAF and Corazón San Antonio expand their services in HIV outreach, testing, prevention, and syringe exchange while providing resources to sex workers and people experiencing homelessness.

As 20% of new HIV diagnoses are in the 13-24 year-old age group nationwide, this program will include HIV/STI education with Corazón SA’s Young Adult Stability and Support (YASS) program (CDC, 2020). With approximately 15% of women and 6% of men living with HIV in San Antonio having likely acquired HIV through injection drug use (AIDSVu, 2020), this project builds upon Corazón San Antonio’s syringe services program, the only program of its kind in Texas, by incorporating HIV/STI testing. Early diagnosis and rapid linkage to care is crucial in preventing the onset of AIDS, and this program follows all testing with a rapid linkage to care for HIV treatment or referral for PrEP services to prevent HIV.

United in their efforts to lower the local spread of HIV and STIs, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation and Corazón’s support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation will provide the community with solutions to help them to reach their goal of zero new infections of HIV and STIs in Bexar County.

“In partnering with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation and Corazón San Antonio will be able to connect with otherwise marginalized communities to provide not just HIV prevention and access to care but to offer support services for people who use drugs,” said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, PhD, MPH, CEO of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation. “Syringe exchange is crucial in helping to limit the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. While we will be testing for HIV and other STIs, these outreach activities also set the stage for providing mental health and social services support. Our goal is to reduce new HIV infections and bring people into recovery, and the support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation will go a long way towards ending the HIV epidemic in San Antonio.”

Erika Borrego, MSW, CEO and President of Corazón SA added, “Corazón San Antonio has one of the largest Syringe Service Programs (SSP’s) in Texas providing holistic harm reduction services through its Drop-In Center, which is open to our housed and unhoused populations struggling with substance use across the county. This program has assisted over 800 clients this year with holistic harm reduction services and removed 416,204 syringes, overall making our community a safer place to live.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation, San Antonio AIDS Foundation and Corazón San Antonio have a shared goal of revolutionalizing the model of HIV care by meeting communities where they are, outside of traditional healthcare settings. We are happy to partner with such vital and trusted organizations providing HIV testing and linkage to care throughout Bexar County. By making it easier for the San Antonio community to access HIV testing free and confidentially, together we will empower them to access the services they need to prevent HIV or enroll and adhere to HIV treatment. – Noelle Esquire, US Portfolio Lead at the Elton John AIDS Foundation