WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) in partnership with Cicatelli Associates, Inc. (CAI), is pleased to announce the launch of the Southern Initiative, a project which aims to improve HIV outcomes among minority populations in the Southern United States. This three-year initiative is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, and administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau, Division of Metropolitan HIV/AIDS Programs. Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20161104/436299LOGO Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20161104/436300LOGO The Southern Initiative will focus on four Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part A jurisdictions: Atlanta, Houston, Memphis, and New Orleans. One organization in each jurisdiction will receive funding and technical assistance to implement innovative and evidence-based interventions aimed at improving outcomes across the HIV care continuum, and reducing disparities among minority populations, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), youth, cisgender and transgender women, and people who inject drugs. In alignment with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, interventions will focus on establishing systems to seamlessly link people to care immediately after HIV diagnosis, and support retention in care to achieve viral suppression. For those who test negative, interventions will support prevention counseling and planning, including PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. The South bears a disproportionate burden - over 50% - of newly diagnosed cases of HIV. In addition, outcomes along the HIV care continuum are among the lowest in the country, and disparities among minority populations are particularly pronounced. For example, African Americans are severely affected by HIV in the South. Black MSM face an especially heavy burden, accounting for 59% of all HIV diagnoses among African Americans in the South, and black women account for 69% of all HIV diagnoses among women in the South.