By Ariel Worthy
Times Staff writer
A $50,000 grant from The Elton John AIDS Foundation has been awarded to Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) in support of the Magic City Acceptance Center (MCAC). Funds were made available by a partnership between the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The two foundations have awarded a combined $330,000 to six organizations, including BAO, addressing the AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.
“It was exciting,” said Amanda Keller, director of Magic City Acceptance Center. “It was really difficult when we came to a point where we decided we needed to change our mission statement. We want to make the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning) community a priority in what we do. When we received the funding it was a state of shock and awe.”
This isn’t the first time The Elton John AIDS Foundation awarded a grant to the BAO. In 2014 they received a $50,000 grant from them to begin the project of MCAC.
“That was when it was just a dream we had,” Keller said. “The newest age rate of HIV is from 13-24, and in order to do more outreach we opened the center to reach the young people in the community.”
BAO’s Magic City Acceptance Center brings together HIV prevention, support groups, youth activities and advocacy efforts geared towards LGBTQ youth. The Magic City Acceptance Center houses BAO’s LGBTQ programs where youth can meet, participate in structured group activities, talk with counselors, and access free HIV testing and HIV prevention education materials.
“Our goal is to provide a safe, supportive and affirming space for LGBTQ identified youth, increase HIV education & testing, promote healthy choices and activities; and supply access to social workers, counselors, and support groups.” Keller said.
MCAC has provided a variety of counseling, including meditation.
“We started a meditation group for those who want to experience therapy in another way rather than counseling,” Keller said.
The MCAC also houses the Magic City Wellness Center, where people can receive health care, testing, and even massage therapy. They accept insurance and out-of-pocket pay.
“We are not as expensive as other places, so paying out of pocket is possible,” Keller said. “We actually have a lot of people who do pay out-of-pocket.”
Open house for the Acceptance Center and Wellness Center will be on Wed. March 30 from 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
For more information about the BAO or MCAC, or for volunteer information, contact Keller at email@example.com.