To address HIV disparities in the South, Gilead Sciences’ COMPASS Initiative awarded 40 Transformative Grants totaling $2.3 million to organizations fighting the epidemic in that region. (See the full list of the 2020 grantees at the end of this article.)

Now in its third year, COMPASS—the name stands for “COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States”—is part of the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s pledge to invest $100 million over 10 years in the fight against HIV in the South, the epicenter of today’s epidemic.

Acting as coordinating centers, three organizations helped identify potential grantees, according to a press release from Gilead. Those three groups are Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, the Southern AIDS Coalition and the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

The grants are divided into three funding areas:

  • Building organizational capacity

  • Well-being, mental health, trauma-informed care, substance use and telehealth

  • HIV-related stigma reduction.

In addition, according to Gilead, the initiative’s mission can be broken down into three distinct goals:

  • To build capacity and increase knowledge sharing among community-based

  • To explore interventions that appropriately respond to patients’ needs, including the bundling or reframing of mental health care as well as the intersection between substance use, the opioid epidemic and HIV/AIDS
  • To fund awareness and anti-stigma campaigns.

“We believe in going where the need is greatest, listening to those working on the front lines and providing them the resources they need to scale their success,” said Korab Zuka, Gilead’s vice president of public affairs, in the press release. “Nowhere is that truer than in the Southern U.S., where HIV infection rates are increasing and finding access to care can be difficult. Last year, our transformative grant partners helped reduce stigma, train health care professionals and expand access in rural communities. We’re excited to see these new grantees bring their creativity and tenacity to end HIV once and for all.”

“People living with HIV often experience trauma and mental health challenges that require culturally appropriate and person-centered treatment,” added Samira Ali, PhD, LMSW, an assistant professor and center director at University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. “These new resources allow our community partners to enhance the quality of care so that the communities’ needs are met through community-driven solutions.”

“Data about the HIV epidemic shows a need for increased financial investment in Southern-based organizations. These additional resources are vital to saving lives,” said Neena Smith-Bankhead, MS, director of capacity building and community engagement at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. “Together, we can find, grow and strengthen the capacity of organizations that are able to combat HIV in the Southern United States.”

The 2020 COMPASS grantees are:


  • Alabama Regional Medical Services


  • Big Bend CARES
  • Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Greater Fort Lauderdale, Inc.
  • Let’s BeeHIVE! Inc.
  • Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan, Inc.
  • TransInclusive Group
  • University of South Florida Research Foundation


  • Aniz, Inc.
  • Black AIDS Institute SOUTH (Black Treatment Advocates Network)
  • A Vision 4 Hope, Inc.
  • He Is Valuable, Inc.
  • Here’s To Life
  • National AIDS Education Services for Minorities (NAESM, Inc.)
  • SisterLove, Inc.
  • Thrive SS, Inc.


  • 504HealthNet
  • Brotherhood, Incorporated
  • Central Louisiana AIDS Support Services
  • Louisiana Public Health Institute


  • Delta Health Alliance
  • Mississippi Center for Justice
  • My Brother’s Keeper, Inc.

North Carolina:

  • AIDS Leadership Foothills-area Alliance, Inc. (ALFA)
  • Circle of Friends Task Force
  • Latino Commission on AIDS
  • Positive Wellness Alliance

South Carolina

  • Gender Benders
  • University of South Carolina Education Foundation (PASO)


  • Chattanooga C.A.R.E.S., Inc. Cempa Community Care
  • Friends for Life Corporation
  • My Sistah’s House
  • Partnership To End AIDS Status Inc. (PEAS Inc.)
  • Positively Living
  • Relationships Unleashed
  • Tennessee Recovery Alliance


  • HOPE, Health, & Wellness Center
  • Legacy Community Health Services
  • Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network
  • Whatsinthemirror?

To learn more about COMPASS on, read about the 2019 grantees, the debut of the initiative, the launch of seven new interventions to reduce stigma and the appointment of Venita Ray as deputy director to manage the COMPASS initiative.