Gilead Sciences has launched an initiative that promises $100 million over 10 years to help organizations combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States, according to a press release.
The program, known as the Gilead Commitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States (COMPASS) Initiative, will rally local communities to implement innovative solutions against HIV/AIDS in the South, according to the release.
Gilead will partner with three coordinating centers — Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, the SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and the Southern AIDS Coalition — that will find and offer funding to local organizations in the South that are committed to fighting the HIV epidemic, the company said. The centers will focus on capacity building and sharing knowledge; well-being, mental health and trauma-informed care; and campaigns that increase awareness, education and anti-stigma.
One of Gilead’s partners, the SUSTAIN Center, will put clinicians and medical professionals on the frontlines in the fight against HIV/AIDS to incorporate effective intervention strategies in the vulnerable communities affected by the disease, according to Samira Ali, PhD, LMSW, assistant professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and director of the SUSTAIN Center.
“Together, we plan to mobilize communities to create sustainable solutions and develop culturally relevant services in the Southern region of the United States,” Ali told Infectious Disease News. “We’ll accomplish this by working as a team with communities and service organizations to provide resources, training and technical assistance, while incorporating culturally tailored best practices to strengthen care and engagement in care. We’ll hit the ground running to meet people where they are to identify the areas with the highest rates with limited access to care. Efforts to reduce stigma, reframe mental health care and address opioid use will be launched as well.”
According to CDC, the South makes up only 38% of the population, but the region accounts for about 45% of all people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S., and nearly half of all people dying from HIV/AIDS in the country live in a Southern state. Of all black men who have sex with men and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV nationally in 2014, more than 60% lived in the South.
“Community health is essential because communities need to decide what they need, be a part of the development of programs as well as their evaluations,” Ali said. “Clinics and service organizations will get support in applying for grants, evaluating their programs and incorporating telehealth initiatives such as teleconferencing to increase reach and impact. The challenge is great, but the University of Houston, thanks to Gilead Sciences, is in this fight for the long haul.” – by Savannah Demko
CDC. HIV in the United States by Geography. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/geographicdistribution.html. Accessed December 7, 2017.
Disclosures: Ali is the director of the SUSTAIN Center. She reports no other relevant financial disclosures.