The negative stigma surrounding HIV can affect patients’ emotional well-being and mental health, and the stigma can come from anywhere: healthcare professionals, communities, and even themselves. In partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health created the HIV Challenge, a community engagement program to reduce HIV-related stigma and disparities by “providing an opportunity for individuals and organizations to participate in developing novel innovative approaches that can be successfully implemented within their local communities.”

Patients with HIV/AIDS still face discrimination through systemic assumptions and unacknowledged biases in treatment and care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an estimated 1,189,700 people in the United States had HIV at the end of 2019. In the same year, 42% of all new HIV diagnoses accounted for members of the Black community and 29% accounted for members of the Hispanic/Latino community, indicating lower rates of approaches to improve pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication and antiretroviral therapy (ART) awareness, initiation, and adherence in minority populations. indicated that PrEP and ART are effective prevention methods against transmission of HIV.

HHS’s HIV challenge will increase society’s knowledge of community engagement and mobilization strategies to support reducing the stigma surrounding HIV. HHS said it hopes that the national competition will improve use of PrEP and ART among minority populations at increased risk for or with HIV.

Participants have access to subject matter experts for coaching throughout phases of the challenge. According to HHS, the HIV challenge supports approaches for minority populations that:

  • Report experiencing certain types of stigma (e.g., internalized, enacted, anticipated, ageism, racism).
  • Incorporate validated stigma measurement tools (e.g., HIV Stigma Scale, Everyday Discrimination Scale, Intersectional Discrimination Index, Multiple Discrimination Scale, Gendered Racism Scale).
  • Increase knowledge and skills in reducing HIV stigma among community-based organizations serving racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Use community engagement and mobilization strategies.
  • Evaluate scalability of developed approaches.

The HIV challenge involves three phases: concept design, development of approach, and refinement of approach and small-scale testing. The challenge takes place from July 2021­2022, and all registrations are due by September 24, 2021. Enter by submitting your proposed approaches to Further submission details can also be found online.

ONS believes that all individuals must have access to quality care, regardless of social determinants of health, eliminating systemic racism and biases in treatment. Nurses and healthcare workers must devote their work and research to ending inequity and providing a solution to the negative stigmas surrounding disease and diagnoses.