A group of major HIV investors launched a partnership called The Southern HIV Impact Fund with an initial investment of $2.65 million to support 37 organizations in nine states, according to a press release by AIDS United, which will manage the fund.

Funders include Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation, ViiV Healthcare and Johnson & Johnson. Announced on World AIDS Day, The Fund aims to end HIV and health disparities in the following Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. You can read more about it at SouthernFund.org.

“America’s South is the epicenter of the national epidemic,” said John Barnes, executive director of the Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCC), which convened The Fund. “Forty percent of all people living with HIV in the U.S. live in the South. Yet the region received just 18 percent of total HIV-related philanthropy in 2015. This translates to a per capita $59 per person living with HIV in the South, as compared to $116 per person allocated nationally. Without the necessary resources, we will not be able to control this epidemic.”

According to the press release, highlighted groups receiving the first round of funding include:

  • Equality Florida and Equality Foundation of Georgia to support new leaders and expand local capacity to organize around important policy proposals.
  • Valley AIDS Council to provide prevention and care services on the Frontera (Mexican border).
  • Freedom Fund Network in Florida was given funding for its work posting bail and connecting people living with HIV to care upon release.
  • Birmingham AIDS Outreach received support to engage in intersectional, pro-bono legal advocacy.
  • North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition to counter racial discrimination and promote justice reform for people who use drugs in North Carolina.
  • Southern AIDS Coalition got funds to support the development of regional grassroots leadership among queer people of color and those living with HIV.

“This initial investment is just a first step in providing resources needed to tackle the challenges of HIV in the region,” Barnes said in the press release. “In order to make sustainable progress, we will need funders that address the issues that intersect with and often fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic—health equity, racism, homophobia, poverty and reproductive health and justice—to join our efforts.”

A few months ago, The Fund had already invested an additional $15,000 to help people with HIV who live in hurricane-stricken areas.