The CDC NPIN Featured Partner resource offers prevention-focused organizations a platform to showcase their services, programs, and materials. Our goal is to highlight the work of CDC's prevention partners and encourage partners to connect with each other to share information and strategies. Organizations are nominated each month by their peers and featured as the highlighted partner for the month.
Empower "U", Inc., was founded in 1999 by two African-American women living with HIV/AIDS. As one of the first African-American, community-based AIDS service organizations founded and managed by people living with HIV/AIDS in Miami-Dade County, Florida, Empower "U" provides care and prevention services to low-income individuals, primarily African Americans, living with HIV/AIDS or at high risk of contracting HIV. Since its inception, Empower "U" has gained a reputation for finding and connecting to care those people living with HIV who are newly diagnosed, lost to care, and from the most difficult to reach and disenfranchised population in Miami-Dade County.
The mission of Empower "U" is to empower, educate, and promote better healthcare choices for individuals and families living with or at risk for health disparities, particularly HIV/AIDS. When Empower "U" accomplishes its mission, all persons living with HIV/AIDS will have equitable access to care and live longer, healthier lives, and new HIV infections will be eliminated.
Empower "U" is centrally located in and serves the Liberty City/North Central Dade area of Miami-Dade County. This area has the highest concentration of HIV/AIDS and street drug use, the highest rate of poverty, and the highest rate of uninsured and underinsured in the county. Local residents call this area the "Triangle of Death" because it is plagued by high rates of HIV infection, AIDS cases, and poverty and is overwhelmed by substance use and trade.
Specific services include outreach, HIV rapid testing, counseling, linkage services, case management for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS services, prevention services (Comprehensive Risk Counseling and Services [CRCS], Safety Counts, and the Mpowerment Project), and emergency support services. Empower "U"'s services are funded by government and private grants, as well as individual and corporate contributions.
Since 2004, Empower "U" has been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide HIV rapid testing, counseling, and referral, as well as Safety Counts and CRCS services. In 2007, 2.2 percent of those tested by Empower "U" were newly diagnosed with HIV. Only the emergency room at Jackson Memorial, Miami-Dade's local public hospital, had a higher rate of newly diagnosed positive cases. While deeply saddened by this statistic and the fact that it is located in a region with one of the highest seroprevalence rates in Florida, the agency is very proud of the work it does to combat HIV/AIDS.
One strategy that has proven effective in increasing testing among individuals at risk for HIV is Empower "U"'s mobile testing van, a Dodge Sprinter converted to a two-room lab. Daily, Empower "U"'s outreach team canvasses neighborhoods where there is high prevalence of HIV and high risk activities. The mobile testing unit makes HIV testing more accessible by bringing the proverbial "mountain to Mohammed." Empower "U"'s mobile testing van is in high demand at health fairs, churches, and HIV awareness events.
Empower "U" attributes its ability to locate and engage high-risk individuals with its indigenous workers service strategy. Within its staff of 25, Empower "U" employs minorities, people living with HIV/AIDS, former substance abusers, and former incarcerated individuals who either presently or formerly lived or congregated among the target population. These indigenous workers are able to relate to the concerns and fears of the target population because they have been in the same situation and are willing to share their stories, coping mechanisms, and stories of hope.
Contact the NPIN Outreach Team for more information on Featured Partner nominations—firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Featured Partner Archive to learn about other Featured Partners.