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StepUp Indy using grant to expand HIV education and resources

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Black women have the highest HIV transmission rate, according to representatives at StepUp and HIV resource agency, but every corner of the population is impacted. StepUp representatives say it’s their duty to do this work.

StepUp is on a mission to not only expand HIV education, but expand access to resources, and a recent Impact 100 grant will allow the agency do even more work.

You’ll find color through out the StepUp offices. It’s symbolic of the light you can find in the darkness. For many in the LGBTQ community, a dark shadow has been cast.

“Unfortunately, so many people I know had to leave Indiana, and some of us have stuck around to make it better and more accessible,” said Sylvia Thomas, Education Outreach Manager for StepUp .

After being recently awarded a $13,000 grant, the agency will start a syringe service program, which will focus on harm reduction, and help mitigate the risk for disease transmission and downturn in overdoses.

“Out of all Populations that are experiencing the highest incidence rate, the new highest for HIV are Black women, and so we’re really focused on communities, these pockets to make sure that communities are aware,” said Conner Tiffany, Director of Prevention StepUp.

StepUp was formed in 2003 to address HIV, but it’s expanded. Now providing a range of services from re-entry support, HIV education, resources, and much more.

“HIV does not have a face. HIV exists in all types of community, but I also feel like as a black woman talking about HIV, you’re able to connect more. You’re like ‘oh so HIV does affect Black and brown women,” said Lydia Porte, member of the Connection Plus program branch of StepUp.

Having resources, and a diverse staff is key to the ongoing outreach, as trans women are 49 times more susceptible to HIV. Trans men –although less than one percent of the population — are three percent of new HIV cases, according to StepUp.

“This is a passion of mine, especially working with the trans community as a trans man. Noticing the statistics while looking into HIV that we really weren’t a represented population,” said Trevor Payne, who works with StepUp through it’s partnership with AmeriCorps.

StepUp representatives say they hope this work keeps bridging the gaps that are often much wider in Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ communities.