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

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.

Gregory Storch

Project ARK, or AIDS/HIV Resources and Knowledge, is a collaboration among the School of Medicine, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and other area health-care providers including the 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.

“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 when they enter the program,” 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, including protease inhibitors that are known to prolong the lives of HIV patients, 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.