BIRMINGHAM, Ala. The Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC) announced today the next phase of its work to identify scalable and fundable programs that are effective at reducing HIV-related stigma in the South. In addition to funding nine organizations to implement their own programs in 2019, SAC will work closely with a small cohort of organizations to further pilot two promising interventions, Younity Workshop and LEAD Academy.

“The leadership of people living with HIV 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,” states Nic Carlisle, executive director of SAC. “These two interventions are designed to help us build that next generation of effective and resilient leaders.”

SAC will partner with the following organizations to pilot the interventions: THRIVE SS (Atlanta, Georgia), AIDS Services Coalition (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), AIDS Alabama (Birmingham, Alabama), and Partners in Caring (Wilmington, North Carolina). According to THRIVE SS Executive Director Larry Scott-Walker, “[w]e hope to provide leaders living with HIV with the tools needed to advocate on the community level to reduce the viral load and essentially end the epidemic in the Black gay community. We believe that this partnership with SAC aligns with our mission and will assist in reaching our goal.”

SAC and its partners will work closely with the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research (CHPIR) at Duke University to rigorously evaluate the interventions. In previous reports, researchers from CHPIR found HIV-related stigma to be pervasive in the South, leading to negative health outcomes for people living with HIV and reluctance to participate in testing among vulnerable populations. “HIV-related stigma is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is the reason that we can’t test, link to care, or treat enough people,” says Tony Christon-Walker, director of prevention and community partnerships at AIDS Alabama. “If we could end the stigma around HIV, we could end HIV.”

The work is funded by Gilead Sciences through the COMPASS (COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States) Initiative™, an unprecedented $100 million investment over 10 years to support organizations working to end the HIV epidemic in the Southern United States.

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