Gilead Sciences announced the launch of the Gilead COMPASS (COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States) Initiative, a 10-year, $100 million commitment to support organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States. Gilead will partner with three coordinating centers to lead the corporate giving program of the initiative: Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and the Southern AIDS Coalition. These coordinating centers will identify and provide funding to local organizations that are committed to addressing the epidemic throughout the region, focusing on capacity building and shared knowledge; wellbeing, mental health and trauma-informed care; and awareness, education and anti-stigma campaigns.
“HIV/AIDS remains an urgent public health crisis in the United States and this is particularly apparent in the Southern states where rates of new infection rival those seen in the 1980s. In some communities, those rates are actually rising – a chilling reminder that the epidemic is far from a thing of the past,” said Gregg Alton, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Medical Affairs, Gilead Sciences. “We recognize a collaborative effort is needed and we are very pleased to partner with local organizations that are uniquely positioned to address the epidemic on the ground.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Southern United States accounts for approximately 45 percent of all people living with an HIV diagnosis in the country, despite being home to only one third of the population.1,2 Nearly half of all people dying from HIV/AIDS in the United States live in a Southern state.3 HIV disproportionally affects Latinos; transgender women; Black women; and Black gay and bisexual men, in part due to stigma, poverty, lack of access to healthcare and racial inequality.4 Of all Black gay and bisexual men who were diagnosed with HIV in the United States in 2014, more than 60 percent live in a Southern state.
“Limited access to healthcare and information about life-saving advances in HIV treatment and prevention in the most vulnerable communities creates an environment where we, as a society, have the tools in hand to improve lives, but these resources are not being fully utilized to address the epidemic,” said Dr. Charlene Flash, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Baylor College of Medicine. “We must take action and apply these resources to overcome this challenge as too many vulnerable people in the South cannot access, or worse still, are unaware of the existing life-saving tools to prevent and treat HIV.”