Current Initiatives


LEAD (Leadership, Education, and Advocacy Development) Academy

We know that successful systemic change begins with grassroots organizing at the local level in support of critical issues that directly impact the health and wellness of the community. Nowhere is that more evident than within our own movement, where those of us living with HIV forever changed the course of the epidemic. We stood up and demanded services that were responsive to our needs and to the realities of our lived experiences. From the earliest days of the epidemic, our leadership has profoundly influenced the planning of HIV prevention and care services on the national, state, and local levels. Our leadership is now more important than ever, especially in the South, where widening HIV-related health disparities and inequities threaten the lives of our people and impede real progress toward ending the epidemic.

Here at SAC, we are committed to building that next generation of leaders. That’s why we developed the LEAD (Leadership, Education, and Advocacy Development) Academy, an intensive training program created by and for people living with HIV. The LEAD Academy includes more than 20 hours of intensive training, all delivered in-person and on-site by our staff in conjunction with leading experts and local partners. Upon completion of all three courses, participants graduate as “Southern LEADers” with advanced knowledge of HIV, real-world experience with advocacy, and the skills to serve as leaders and trusted sources of information within their community.

Course 1:
LEADing Myself

This first of three courses focuses on building a solid foundation for leadership. We go beyond the basic facts of HIV transmission to discuss the drivers of the epidemic in our communities, what current science says about viral suppression, and the newest prevention strategies available to our brothers and sisters. We explore how language perpetuates stigma and discrimination against PLHIV and other marginalized communities. We also devote a significant portion of this first course to ensuring that you become an emotionally intelligent leader.

What Will You Learn?

  • how to talk about the science of HIV (PrEP, PEP, and TasP)
  • identify and counteract stigmatizing language
  • understand how your emotional intelligence impacts your leadership (past, present and future)
  • identify practices that may create harm and emotional unwellness in your movement
  • skills that cultivate wellness, address conflict, and support movement equity
  • how to develop a concrete action plan to build your emotional intelligence and support the wellness of your movement
Course 2:
LEADing My Policymaker

Ready to be the change you want to see in the South? Here we build upon the foundation that we established in the first course to start holding people in power accountable for the policy changes and strategic investments we need in our communities. In this course, we provide an update on the hottest policy issues affecting PLHIV, cover some advocacy basics, and then do a little preliminary role playing (don’t worry, we’re talking the pg-rated kind). We close out the day by engaging in some real-time advocacy around the issues that matter most to you.

What Will You Learn?

  • role of people of color in our movement (past, present and future)
  • fundamentals of grassroots advocacy, including an overview of the legislative process
  • how to tell your personal story in a way that grabs the attention and appeals to the emotions of policymakers
  • concrete skills and tips to educate policymakers about HIV and its impact on your state and local communities
Course 3:
LEADing My Community

Tired of seeing people who don’t look like you on billboards and brochures? This third and final course focuses on increasing awarness of HIV and combatting stigma through mass marketing campaigns created by you. The first part of the day is spent teaching you the steps of building an effective public health campaign, from identifying the issues to creating compelling messages to bringing your campaign to the community. You’ll immediately put these skills into practice by developing a campaign that addresses HIV-related stigma in your community.

What Will You Learn?

  • fundamentals of communicating health risks
  • history of public health campaigns (both good and bad)
  • how to communicate with the public and media
  • role of culture in effective social marketing
  • how to replicate models of science-based, empowering messages that debunk myths and counter the fear and stigma associated with HIV

Where Are We Enrolling in 2018?

In 2018, SAC will bring the LEAD Academy to six sites where the HIV epidemic is among the worst in the nation, from inner-city Nashville to suburban Florida to Alabama’s rural Black Belt. We are excited to announce the following community-based organizations as our collaborating partners: Basic NWFL (Panama City, Florida), Rural Women’s Health Project (Gainesville, Florida), Street Works (Nashville, Tennessee), Central Alabama AIDS Resource and Advocacy Center (Wetumpka, Alabama), Medical Advocacy and Outreach of Alabama (Montgomery, Alabama), and Thrive Alabama (Huntsville, Alabama).

Please note, the LEAD Academy is meant to be a safe and affirming space to work together to build the leadership capacity of people living with HIV. We are particularly committed to building the capacity of marginalized communities, including gay, bisexual and other same-gender-loving (SGL) men of color, women of color, and people of trans experience. However, all people living with HIV who are committed to this goal are invited to enroll.

MAO of Alabama
Montgomery, AL

Rural Women’s Health Project
Gainesville, FL

Thrive Alabama
Huntsville, AL

Wetumpka, AL

Street Works
Nashville, TN

Basic NWFL
Panama City, FL

The LEAD Academy is funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc. through its COMPASS (COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States) Initiative, a $100 million investment over 10 years to support organizations working to end the HIV epidemic in the Southern United States. Gilead Sciences, Inc. has had no input into the development or content of these courses.


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