Project ARK receives $6.7 million to provide HIV care to women, children, youth

Project ARK, the St. Louis area’s only organization that coordinates medical care, social support and prevention services for children, youth, young adults, women and families living with or at risk for HIV infection, has received a $6.7 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The grant, the largest that supports Project ARK and the foundation of the program, was awarded through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act Part D, allowing Project ARK to continue to provide HIV care to children, youth ages 13-24, and women through a family-centered approach.

Project ARK, or AIDS/HIV Resources and Knowledge, is a collaboration among Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and other area health-care providers, including Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Together, the collaborators provide HIV primary care, case management, mental health and substance abuse evaluation and treatment, counseling, support groups and primary prevention education.

The St. Louis area has an estimated 4,700 people living with HIV/AIDS. Up to 40 percent of them are unaware they have HIV, which disproportionately affects minorities and the poor. In 2006, Project ARK provided services to 653 people infected with HIV, of which about three-fourths were African-American. In 2007, the project expects to serve 679 clients.

“We are very happy to receive this grant as it will allow us to address the needs of newly enrolling individuals and their families while continuing to provide optimum service to existing clients,” said Gregory Storch, M.D., medical director of Project ARK and the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Last year, we had more than 100 new HIV-infected clients in the program. Those individuals often have a high level of need for social support services,” said Storch, also director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The federal Ryan White program is named after an Indiana teenager whose own struggle with AIDS and AIDS-related discrimination helped educate the nation. Ryan White died in 1990, the same year the program was enacted. For low-income, uninsured AIDS patients, the Ryan White Act also provides access to HIV drugs, mental health services, case management and dental care.

Project ARK also receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ryan White Parts A and B and private foundations. It has been funded by the Ryan White Act since 1995.

For more information about Project ARK, please call Kim Donica, director, at (314) 535-7275.

Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.