Access and Health Equity
Fifth Anniversary of COMPASS: Helping Address the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. South
Stories@Gilead - August 18, 2023 - 3 min read
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®, a 10-year, more than $100 million commitment to addressing the HIV epidemic in the Southern United States.
The COMPASS (Commitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in the Southern United States) program was born after a 2017 tour throughout the U.S. South with people affected by HIV. Gilead determined from listening to and learning from local community leaders that to end the epidemic in the region, investments into combating HIV-related stigma, improving community access to and quality of resources, and increasing local leadership and advocacy were essential.
Since its origin, the Gilead COMPASS Initiative has worked closely with and provided funding to nearly 400 community-based organizations across 16 states in the U.S South that address these health inequities and other barriers to care. The program has trained more than 26,000 individuals in leadership development, and in total the program has reached more than 300,000 people through its programming and in-person events.
Locally Addressing Health Disparities
Among the COMPASS grantees is Community Health PIER (CH PIER), which is located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a region grappling with high HIV prevalence and stigmatization. The organization is working to confront health disparities in the local LGBTQ+ community with a holistic approach to health and wellness, peer support and resources to support healthy choices.
“Whether you want to hear about heart health, living healthy with HIV or information about having a small garden in your backyard, you can get that all here,” says Gloria Sturdevant, co-founder of CH PIER, adding that they provide a host of individualized services for people who walk through their door.
CH PIER is one of five grantee organizations featured in a five-part video series focusing on COMPASS’s community partners. The videos highlight the impact of frontline advocates and also demonstrate Gilead’s commitment to supporting their work and trusting the local community to know what works best to serve their region.
“What’s unique about the Gilead COMPASS Initiative is that they’re not telling us what to do,” says Cedric Sturdevant, Gloria’s brother and co-founder of CH PIER. “They allow us to tell them what’s best for our community.”
Continuing Efforts in the U.S. South
While Gloria and her colleagues continue their important work, Gilead plans to expand its support of organizations in the region. Despite progress there’s still much to do: The U.S. South makes up about one-third of the U.S. population but accounts for more than 50% of new HIV diagnoses, and Black individuals bear a disproportionate burden of the disease in the local areas.
The structure of the COMPASS Initiative highlights Gilead’s long-time commitment to addressing health inequities and working with local organizations to reach medically underserved and disproportionately impacted communities.
“The extensive reach of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative in the past five years shows what we’ve been able to achieve together, and we’re looking forward to continuing our journey of growth and collaboration during the next five years,” says Jane Stafford, Executive Director, Public Affairs at Gilead. “We’re incredibly proud of these tangible transformative impacts we’ve had on the landscape of HIV in the Southern United States – in our commitment to ending the HIV epidemic for everyone, everywhere.”