RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., March 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- ViiV Healthcare today issued a new request for letters of interest (LOIs) for the sixth round of its Positive Action Southern Initiative – inviting community organizations in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi to submit an LOI to support programs focused on reducing disparities in HIV/AIDS linkages to care and treatment among at-risk populations in their communities. Based on the tangible results achieved through the program thus far, it has grown in the past four years into a network of nearly 30 organizations. With today's announcement, that number will again increase, and the Positive Action Southern Initiative will have committed over $2.7M toward funding local projects to improve care and services for people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS in this disproportionately-impacted region. "Supporting local HIV/AIDS organizations that understand the specific issues impacting their communities and can deliver hands-on solutions is an integral component of achieving the goals outlined in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy," said Bill Collier, Head of North America, ViiV Healthcare. "With round six of the Initiative, we look forward to welcoming new organizations to the network who can help build on successes achieved through the program and work in collaboration with other network members to meet persistent needs in the Southern United States." The Positive Action Southern Initiative is a collaborative, community-focused program that supports existing initiatives responding to the complexity of the HIV/AIDS continuum of care – from linking people living with HIV into care, to enhancing their treatment adherence, and delaying disease progression. Designed to address these gaps in care and treatment, which have been documented through the Gardner Cascade, the Positive Action Southern Initiative reflects the White House National HIV/AIDS Strategy by directing resources to areas and populations that have the greatest need. With particular focus on reducing disparities among African-American and Latino populations, the Positive Action Southern Initiative currently operates in 10 Southern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic, representing 68 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses in 2011, with new infection rates highest among African-American adults and adolescents. [i] These health disparities are particularly prevalent in the Southern U.S. In Alabama, 68 percent of newly diagnosed individuals were African-American in 2012, despite comprising 26 percent of the population in the state.[ii] In Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, more than 70 percent of all new HIV infections impacted African-Americans and young people.[iii] , [iv] , [v] Through the Positive Action Southern Initiative, selected organizations that work to tackle these disparities and their root causes will be awarded up to $50,000 per year for a provisional commitment over the next two years. "Over the past four years we've seen how the Southern Initiative fosters programs and partnerships that affect meaningful change and successfully address gaps in the HIV/AIDS continuum of care," said Erik Valera, Program Director, Latinos in the Deep South at the Latino Commission on AIDS. "This program offers a unique opportunity for community-based organizations to expand successful programs, and to collaborate and share effective strategies for addressing unmet needs among the most at-risk and most impacted populations in these communities." Southern Initiative Application Process The latest phase of the program focuses on supporting U.S. minorities, as well as high-risk individuals in linkages to care and adherence. Priority will be given to projects that address critical gaps in services.