40 For 40

In observance of the 40th anniversary of the HIV epidemic, the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health COMPASS Coordinating Center is is honoring 40 community leaders, trailblazers, significant events, and innovators in the fight against the HIV. This list highlights 40 people and/or organizations that have helped make strides to end the HIV epidemic.

United States Misc.

Jacqueline Coleman
Owner, Vision Que  LLC

“I am honored and eternally committed to facilitating Excellence with our community. My life quest and pledge is dedicated to ‘provide Healing and Hope for Humanity and transformative support to You the Champions serving it.’”

Tori Cooper,
Director of Community Engagement, Human Rights Campaign

“We all have a part to play in ending the HIV epidemic. Whatever you do, do it well!”

Leisha McKinley-Beach
National HIV Consultant

“History will record my commitment to stop the spread of HIV”

Phill Wilson
Founder of Black AIDS Institute

“Black folks have been greater than any of the challenges we’ve faced in the past. We are greater than the Middle Passage. We are greater than slavery. We are greater than reconstruction. We are greater than Jim Crow. We are greater than Hurricane Katrina. And, together, we are greater than AIDS.”

Yolo Akili
Founder and Executive Director of BEAM (Black Emotional And Mental Health)

“To end HIV/AIDS stigma, we need a radical approach to healing. An approach that decolonizes mental health, dethrones trauma producing leadership, and affirms the lives and wellbeing of people living with HIV over egos and numbers. My hope is that the small waves I have tried to make, contribute to a larger tide that makes this possible for more of our folks. HIV/AIDS stigma cannot survive radical healing work. And radical healing-centered strategies will implode policies rooted in power mongering, transphobia, racism and misogynoir. I hope my contribution to the field helps make more of all of this possible.”

The Minority HIV/AIDS Fund

The Minority AIDS Initiative was established on October 28, 1998, under the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Clinton administration to target funds for the awareness, prevention, testing, and treatment of HIV/AIDS for racial and ethnic minority communities and toward community-based organizations and health care providers serving these communities.

Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (SHAAD) is observed annually on August 20. The Southern AIDS Coalition launched this day to bring awareness to the disproportionate impact of HIV in the South. Additionally, This is an important day for those working in HIV treatment and prevention to share ideas and resources learn from one another, and reflect on the progress toward ending HIV.


Alabama Youth Health Protection Act
Alabama HB385 / SB196

This new law was signed by Governor Kay Ivey on April 27, 2021. It comprehensively reforms sexual education in Alabama by removing outdated, immoral, and inaccurate information that was previously a curriculum requirement.

“We are so happy that the Alabama Legislature finally updated the law that guides HIV education in the school system.  We now have a statute with scientifically accurate information that no longer vilifies the LGBTQ community!”—Kathy Heirs, CEO AIDS Alabama

Lydia M. Chatmon
Rural Health CBO Leader, Selma AIR

“I have been working in the field of sexual wellness and HIV prevention for over 12 years, serving with Selma AIR since 2013.  I am honored to work for the only Black-led community-based AIDS service organization in the state, providing comprehensive care for those thriving beyond HIV and offering preventative resources across Alabama’s Black Belt counties.  Our current efforts related to ending the HIV transmission epidemic include She’s R.E.A.D.Y., an HIV prevention intervention promoting Responsibility, Engagement, Access, and Determination among Black women ages 25 to 50.  Continuing to build our strategic partnerships, operating with a spirit of cultural humility, and effectively offering wrap-around service delivery will further our ability to help stop the spread of HIV in rural Alabama.”


Cornelius Mabin Jr.
CEO, Strilite Foundation, Inc.


“We have to be bold and stand in the face of adversity is what I believe has allowed me to keep having a vision and hope that there will eventually be a cure for HIV. But until then, I’ve decided that I must continue to run the course at least one more lap, eventually handing off the baton and encouraging all who come after me to use what I’ve learned and built for the betterment of all our brother’s and sisters primary health, mental agility and overall well being!”


Tom Liberti
Former AIDS Director, Florida Department of Health

“I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition from the Emory Encore Center. During my time as AIDS Director in Florida, our priorities were very similar to those now of ending the epidemic.  We worked hard to engage and mobilize all our diverse minority communities in order to reduce new infections, increase the number of Floridians who knew their HIV status, and eliminate mother-to-child transmissions. We valued and recognized our relationships with the HIV community in order to succeed.”

Carl Devine
Founder and CEO Banyan Tree Project, Inc.

“I do what I do because it needs to be done.”

Kamaria Laffrey
SERO Project, Program Director

“I strongly feel that we will end the HIV epidemic when people living with HIV, ideally the Black & Brown gender diverse communities, are prioritized as subject matter experts equipped and dedicated to creating equitable and effective strategies and policies. There’s enough of us living with HIV to partner with every seat from development to implementation that’s designated as a response to HIV so that nothing is planned for us without us. Leveraging privilege and power is key to addressing barriers PLHIV faces and how we will get to the end of this epidemic.”

Vanessa Mills
Chief Operating Officer, Care 4 U Community Health Center

“I would like to thank the Emory Encore Center, the Florida Department of Health, Florida International University, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,  and my South Florida community partners for allowing me to make a difference in the HIV community aiming my efforts at research, prevention of HIV transmission, and diagnosing and linking HIV positive persons to care and treatment service.  If I could share one thought, it would be “Amazing God” as  I initially thought my HIV diagnosis was an end-of-life moment…after 29 years I know and believe that my diagnosis was a call to service.”

Ronald Henderson
First Statewide Minority AIDS Coordinator, the Florida Department of Health

The Minority AIDS Initiative was established on October 28, 1998, under the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Clinton administration to target funds for the awareness, prevention, testing, and treatment of HIV/AIDS for racial and ethnic minority communities and toward community-based organizations and health care providers serving these communities.

Sistas Organizing to Survive

SOS was launched by the Florida Department of Health in 2008 to address HIV among Black women. This initiative set a goal to test 100,000 Black women in Florida for HIV each year. By 2010 the state health office achieved that goal!

Targeted Outreach for Pregnant Women Act

The Targeted Outreach for Pregnant Women Act (T.O.P.W.A.) was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1998. The T.O.P.W.A. program was designed to establish an outreach program targeting high-risk pregnant women who may not be receiving proper prenatal care, who suffer from substance abuse problems, or who may be diagnosed with HIV.


SISTA Intervention

The SISTA intervention was developed in 1995 by Emory Professors Dr. Ralph DiClemente and Dr. Gina Wingood. A Peer-led Program to Prevent HIV Diagnosis in African American Women. SISTA was aimed at reducing HIV sexual risk behavior. It was comprised of five 2-hour sessions, delivered by peer facilitators in a community-based setting.

Dr. James Curran
Dean of Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

“Improving the health of a population or country requires looking for ways to redefine the unacceptable and rise above the status quo.” 

Loreen Krug
Information Program Manager, AID Atlanta

“I feel this would be a miracle, though not impossible. We must all work together to make this a reality. We are interdependent. Each of us can touch a person in a humane way that is struggling with stigma and discrimination by being supportive and accepting.”

Nicole Roebuck
Executive Director, AID Atlanta Inc.

“As a leader in this fight against HIV/AIDS for over 20 years, I have seen many changes across the HIV landscape that have helped to advance the scientific and medical interventions to eradicate HIV. The science is available, however, many of the same exact barriers to care that existed 21 years ago, are many of the same barriers people living with HIV or at risk of HIV face today, i.e. poverty, structural racism, homophobia and stigma, lack of affordable housing, lack of easy healthcare access, etc. We also need a vaccine to end HIV. We must put our strategies and funding behind a comprehensive and holistic approach to ending the HIV epidemic in order to truly end HIV in our lifetime. I stay hopeful in this fight, because I know we can get it done together with the will of the people, and the will of those elected to serve our best interests.”

Dr. David Malebranche

“We’ve made so many advances in the science of treating HIV during the past 40 years, I am very optimistic about the prospect of a cure around the corner. Since most of our current HIV prevention and treatment efforts are biomedical, the only challenges in front of us are improving the processes within our medical systems and eliminating the stigma and bias perpetuated by medical providers and staff in our institutions. That way, our social progress will match our scientific advances, and we can truly engage in providing the equitable distribution of healthcare to the communities we are charged with serving.”

Freda Jones
Chief Executive Officer , LOTUS (Loving Ourselves Through Unity and Strength)

“Stigma of HIV/AIDS ends with me, one woman, one man, one boy, one girl at a time”

Dazon Dixon Diallo
Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Sisterlove Inc.

“We have always had to fight for inclusion and recognition in this epidemic from the start and we’re still having to fight for that inclusion. That’s why I stay in it, that’s why I’m committed to it because what I do know for sure is that even if it takes another 40 years (I pray that it doesn’t), no matter how long it takes for us to get to the end of HIV, we will never get there without centering this work on women- Black women in particular, because when Black women organize, we change things for everybody not just for ourselves.”

Dr. Carlos Del Rio
Co-Director Emory Center for AIDS Research, Executive Associate Dean:Emory School of Medicine & Grady Health System

“As a physician, researcher and advocate I am committed to ending the HIV epidemic. We have the tools to do so but stigma, discrimination, and other social barriers get in the way to achieve the outcomes we all want. It is critically important that we continue to work with communities and, in particular, with persons with HIV and at risk of HIV so that real progress can be made. Having a more just and fair society would go a long way to ending HIV.”

Neena Smith-Bankhead
EnCORE center Director, Emory University

“When the decision makers look more like those affected by the decisions; when the researchers meaningfully engage those who are being researched, and when the fix for broken systems is informed by those who need them most, we will see a dramatic shift in the epidemic.”



Matthew 25
Cyndee Burton, R.N. , Chief Executive Officer

“I began when there was no hope, to a new day with healthy lives for those living with HIV and new tools to prevent the transmission of HIV. We must keep our eye on the prize!”

Monica Lee Ridgeway
Founder of 12One12 Consulting, LLC; Life Development Corporation, Inc., Grants & Sponsorship Advisory Council Member

“As a passionate and trusted public health advocate, my obligation is to continue to help set the path toward overcoming and ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, while encouraging more equitable health care policies in our government organizations and institutions, creating diverse, equitable and inclusive spaces for everyone, while not forgetting Black and Brown people, in the state of Kentucky, our country and around the globe.  This job is so much more than a “9 to 5,” it is advocacy and ministry work that is rewarding and fulfilling.”



Gina Brown
Director Strategic Partnerships & Community Engagement, Southern AIDS Coalition

“We’ve been having the same conversations with the same people for 40 years. Conversations that center testing and treatment, but we’ve never adequately addressed any of the drivers of HIV. We’re not going to end this epidemic if we don’t address housing. We’re not going to end this epidemic if we don’t address poverty. We’re not going to end this epidemic if we don’t dismantle racism, with a specific focus on anti-Black racism. We’re not going to end this epidemic if we don’t get out of our silos and start working with the communities we know bear a disproportionate burden of HIV, in a way that’s affirming and culturally competent”

Sharon DeCuir
Community Champion for Women With HIV

“Summing up my years of service and commitment to this fight, I must Thank God first, because, without His grace and mercy, it would not have been possible. My fight is because of determination, and my desire to live. I was broken in the beginning, without hope. However, I decided to live. Now, I live my life aloud embracing my HIV status. I am the voice for the hopeless and my life exhibits advocacy, power, determination, character, and purpose. Every day, my goal is to lead others to a life lived stigma-free.”



Dr. June Smith-Gipson
President/CEO My Brother’s Keeper

“The 40th anniversary of the HIV epidemic is a time of reflection on the people that we have lost and the progress that we have made as a community.  It gives me a great sense of pride to know that we fought this battle together and that we will continue to fight, regardless of the stigma, politics, or hate.”

Cedric Sturdevant
Co-Founder and Co-Director – CH-PIER

“Since I began doing this work my favorite quote comes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which states, ‘Our world begins to end the moment we become silent about the things that matter’. This is true to me because in the Mississippi Delta we didn’t talk much about HIV/AIDS until the rate of diagnosis increased especially amongst Black Gay Men and Black Women. We are not being silent anymore, hear our voices.”


North Carolina

Judith Montenegro
Director of Latinos in the Deep South at the Latino Commission on AIDS

“Our plans to End the HIV Epidemic must be bold, rooted in the community, and go beyond biomedical interventions. HIV prevention, treatment, and care must also be a pathway to citizenship and a life without fear of deportation, reproductive and sexual rights, and an unobstructed, uninterrupted right to vote.”

“Nuestros planes para poner fin a la epidemia del VIH deben ser audaces, arraigados en la comunidad e ir más allá de las intervenciones biomédicas. La prevención, el tratamiento y la atención del VIH también deben ser un camino hacia la ciudadanía y una vida sin temor a la deportación, los derechos reproductivos y sexuales, y el derecho al voto sin obstáculos ni interrupciones.”

Candace Cox
LGBTQ educator & advocate; Board of Directors for Equality NC; Advisory Board Member for Emory COMPASS

“Until we have true equality amongst all and equal and fair treatment for people of color, we will always have to fight to end this epidemic. And until that day of justice comes I will fight to ensure that HIV becomes a thing of the past.”


South Carolina

Dafina Ward
Executive Director, Southern AIDS Coalition

“Ending the HIV epidemic in the South requires us to address so many layers of trauma, to build new systems, and demand better for our communities. Together we can—and we must.”

Carmen Hampton-Julious
Chief Executive Officer, PALSS, Inc.

“I want to end the HIV epidemic in my life time. It is the only we can truly honor those we have lost and those living with HIV.  We can do it together!”


Marvell L.Terry II
Senior Program Manager, AIDS United

“I can recall linking newly diagnosed HIV individuals into care in Memphis, TN. The individuals would be mostly Black folks and often peers. I can recall those conversations that were so nuanced. Conversations of scarcity, racism, housing insecurity, lack of technology, underemployment, and so forth.  Now as a community rooted funder, I work to ensure that to End the Epidemic, we have to assert and disassemble the intolerance, predilections, and patriarchy that exist in funding Black and Brown grassroots organizations.”

Dr. Shanell McGoy
Director of Public Affairs, Corporate Giving at Gilead Sciences

“I often speak fondly of my Grandmama’s quilts. The quilts are much more than scraps of fabric, thread, and batting. The quilts are lessons for our work to end the epidemic. We are Quilters, creating a beautiful patchwork quilt. A patchwork to erase stigma, create equitable systems, and embody social & healing justice. There are quilts that haven’t been started, some that have been started but haven’t yet been finished. Pick a design, fabric, thread, and together we can stitch a world free of new diagnosis, full of undetectable virus/disease  and full of love.”



Marlene McNeese
Assistant Director, Houston Health Department

“Epidemics magnify our best and worst traits as a society. Ending the HIV epidemic requires us to end inequities. Ending the HIV epidemic in all communities should push us to be responsive to the context of people’s lives, where everyone has access to the tools that will work for them.”

Venita Ray, JD
Co-Executive Director, Positive Women’s Network – USA

“HIV is a racial justice issue! We cannot test, PrEP, treat or educate our way out of the epidemic without also dealing with the structural and systemic barriers and intersectional stigma that make Black and brown communities vulnerable to HIV. Over 40 years later we are still choosing to support structural forms of violence like HIV criminalization, restricting access to abortion and voter suppression. People living with HIV deserve a quality of life that is measured by more than viral suppression and CD4 count. Our people deserve life, health, dignity and power!

Nov 30, 2018

COMPASS Initiative® Funds 32 Organizations to Transform the HIV Epidemic in the South

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Jan 31, 2019

Q&A with COMPASS Coordinating Center Directors

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The Intersection of Faith and Wellness

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Apr 10, 2019

Announcing the University of Houston GCSW Shared Learning Partners

The SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center has selected 5 organizations to be a part of their first LEARN (Leading with Education, Advocacy

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