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AIDS Watch: Culture with a Conscience

AFH’s ‘Mukuru’ concerts series elevates community partnership to an art form.

Kelly McCann

By Kelly McCann

AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc. is the National AIDS Fund partner for this region of Texas.

So what? Big deal, you say?  

Well, actually it is somewhat of a big deal, and it is certainly a good thing for Houston. I’ll explain.

In 1988, the National AIDS Fund was established to reduce the incidence and impact of HIV and AIDS. NAF and a consortium of private foundations and national corporations, such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, combined resources to raise funds at the national level and re-distribute those monies to community-based organizations in areas of the country hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. NAF then developed a community partnership model that accomplishes this by identifying organizations capable of raising money, engaging in grant making, and developing leadership in communities around the United States.   

In 2000, NAF chose Houston as a target city and they approached AFH with an invitation to become the community partner or “convener” for our area. Since that time, AFH has been an active NAF partner and has helped secure thousands of dollars for HIV prevention in our city and for the care of HIV-infected survivors of Katrina who relocated to Houston. More HIV funding for our community is definitely a good thing.

It works like this: NAF gives AFH an annual challenge grant, typically $25,000. AFH must raise twice that amount ($50,000) as a match. The combined total ($75,000) is then used to fund grant making for HIV-prevention programs at other agencies in Houston.

That’s right. Under this program, NAF donates money to AFH, we raise additional dollars, and then we don’t keep even one thin dime of it.    

Since we began conducting grant making in Houston, AFH’s priority has been, and remains, funding HIV-prevention programs that target racial and sexual minority youth. Last year, we presented three $25,000 awards to HIV-prevention programs conducted by local organizations: a video-based prevention program for African American and Latino youth at Baylor Teen Clinic, a program targeting African immigrant female adolescents provided by Saving Lives Through Alternate Options, and an Internet outreach program for young gay men operated by Legacy Community Health Services.

Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for 2008 funding under our Community Partnerships in HIV Prevention Program should visit the AFH website at But they should do it soon.  

The request for proposals will be issued on September 4 and the deadline for submissions is October 19. In November, an external review committee will rate the proposals and select the programs to be awarded funding. Grantees will then be announced at our annual World AIDS Day luncheon.

So, how does AFH raise the required matching funds?

We developed our Mukuru-Arts for AIDS series to serve as the fundraising vehicle for our NAF community partnership. Later this month on September 21 at the Rothko Chapel, we’re kicking off our third season with Four Corners, a classical concert featuring music from around the world.

Mu-what? Mu-who? Mukuru (muck-oo-roo) is the compassionate creator deity of the Herero Bushmen of Africa. We felt it was an appropriate name for our Arts for AIDS series that we hoped would establish a strong connection between the social justice cause of HIV prevention and the creative arts.

And we believe it has done just that. We have brought HIV awareness to a new audience—the classical music/performing arts crowd—and while raising consciousness, we’ve managed to raise a few dollars for local HIV-prevention programs along the way.  

Remember, making a contribution to, or purchasing tickets for, AFH’s Mukuru series actually benefits the entire Houston community, especially our teens and young adults. The dollars raised via Mukuru, along with the 50-percent match from NAF, are used to fund HIV-prevention programs for youth.

As Julie Eberly, vice president of development at AFH likes to say to our Mukuru benefactors, “The dollar you give today may be the dollar that prevents a young person from becoming infected with HIV.”

We at AFH are proud that we are able to raise funds and share resources with other community-based organizations doing vital prevention work. It is one more way we can stop new infections, one more way we can help other AIDS service providers, and one more way we can contribute to our community. And in the process, Mukuru audiences are treated to world-class performances, sprinkled with HIV awareness.  

Now that’s what I call art.

Visit to check out the performance calendar for season 3. Kelly McCann is the chief executive officer of AIDS Foundation Houston, which recently marked 25 years of service. Details:

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