COMPASS Initiative® Funds 32 Organizations to Transform the HIV Epidemic in the South
Atlanta, Georgia (November 30, 2018) – In recognition of the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day and in support of
August 31, 2021 – Today, Black leaders from nine HIV organizations across the U.S. announced they held a virtual, private meeting with artist Jonathan “DaBaby” Kirk to discuss HIV facts and share personal stories of living and thriving with HIV. The leaders called for a meeting with the artist in an open letter on August 04 to which DaBaby affirmatively responded. The organizations provide HIV education and direct services to people most impacted by HIV/AIDS, especially Black heterosexual men and women and LGBTQ communities across the southern United States, which account for the majority of new HIV cases. Last week, GLAAD also released findings from the 2021 State of HIV Stigma Study, funded by the Gilead COMPASS (COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States) Initiative® which found only 42% of Americans know that people living with HIV cannot transmit the virus while on proper treatment.
On Wednesday, August 25, representatives from Black AIDS Institute, Gilead Sciences COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Centers, GLAAD, National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Positive Women’s Network-USA, Prevention Access Campaign (U=U), the Southern AIDS Coalition, and Transinclusive Group, as well as a faith and HIV advisor, discussed HIV history and education, as well as the groups’ work in Black, LGBTQ and faith communities.
This meeting followed the open letter to DaBaby from these and other organizations earlier this month which asked for a meeting after harmful and inaccurate comments at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. In the letter, the HIV advocates wrote: “At a time when HIV continues to disproportionately impact Black Americans and queer and transgender people of color, a dialogue is critical. We must address the miseducation about HIV expressed in your comments, and the impact it has on various communities.”
As of August 26th, 125 organizations signed on to support the open letter to DaBaby. Organizations signing the letter include the Gilead COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Centers at Emory University, the University of Houston, Southern AIDS Coalition, and Wake Forest University along with at least 44 COMPASS partners including Arkansas Black Gay Men Forum, Partnership To End AIDS Status Inc. (PEAS), My Brother’s Keeper, Inc., Relationships Unleashed, and Advocacy House Services. The Gilead COMPASS Initiative® is an unprecedented more than $100 million commitment over 10 years to support over 180 organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States. COMPASS focuses on providing concentrated investments in the region to reduce HIV-related health disparities, build awareness, advance education, and reduce stigma.
Joint Statement from Black Community Leaders/Meeting Attendees:
The open letter to DaBaby was our way to extend him the same grace each of us would hope for. Our goal was to ‘call him in instead of calling him out.’ We believed that if he connected with Black leaders living with HIV that a space for community building and healing could be created. We are encouraged he swiftly answered our call and joined us in a meaningful dialogue and a thoughtful, educational meeting.
During our meeting, DaBaby was genuinely engaged, apologized for the inaccurate and hurtful comments he made about people living with HIV, and received our personal stories and the truth about HIV and its impact on Black and LGBTQ communities with deep respect. We appreciate that he openly and eagerly participated in this forum of Black people living with HIV, which provided him an opportunity to learn and to receive accurate information.
As community leaders who understand the power of conversations as a path to education and evolution, we know that DaBaby received meaningful facts. We were also able to share personal stories about our lives as everyday people who acquired HIV. Now, we wish for him to use his platform to relay that critical information to his fanbase and encourage people to get tested and know their status. During our meeting, DaBaby acknowledged that the HIV facts we presented- many of which he himself was unaware of- are what every American needs to know: HIV is preventable and when treated properly, cannot be passed on. At a time when HIV continues to disproportionately impact Black communities, celebrities and influencers of all backgrounds have the power to defeat the stigma that fuels the epidemic. We must all do our part to make the public aware of medication that can prevent HIV and to get more people tested and treated. Together we can end this epidemic. 40 years is far too long. Stigma hurts; prevention, testing, and treatment work.
Leaders shared the following facts with DaBaby and jointly want to share them with his fans:
The 2021 State of HIV Stigma Study, published last week by GLAAD and Gilead Sciences, paints a troubling picture of the general US population’s overall awareness about HIV, including low levels of accurate knowledge around HIV transmission, and persistent stigma toward people living with HIV.
Quote from Marnina Miller, a Community Outreach Coordinator with the Southern AIDS Coalition, a Gilead COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Center, who participated in the meeting: “DaBaby’s willingness to listen, learn, and grow can open the door to an entirely new generation of people to do the same. We are proud to be part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative’s efforts to train nearly 13,000 people to become more effective leaders and advocates within the HIV community across the South and hope that each can have impactful conversations just like ours with DaBaby. Ending HIV stigma requires doing the hard work of changing hearts and minds, and often that begins with something as simple as starting a dialogue. We hope DaBaby will use his platform to educate his fans and help end the epidemic.”
Quote from DaShawn Usher, Associate Director, Communities of Color, GLAAD:
“For the second year in a row, we are finding that HIV stigma remains high while HIV knowledge remains low amongst Americans. We have to think critically and intentionally about how we truly equip and engage everyday Americans with the facts, resources, and scientific advancements about HIV if we want to end the epidemic. We must hold the media accountable to the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV who are not seen, represented, or discussed. Their stories matter and are beyond worthy of being told.”
Quote from Reverend Rob Newells-Newton, Director of Programs, Black AIDS Institute
“Our goal is to make sure that Black people are armed with accurate information so that they can make the best choices for themselves about their sexual health. Last year, Black AIDS Institute released We The People: A Black Strategy to End HIV. This year, we’ve been working with our partners to develop a Federal Action Plan and a Community Action Plan with concrete steps folks can take to put the four pillars of We The People into action. We call on Black people and our allies to: dismantle anti-Black racism; invest in transforming the socioeconomic conditions of Black people; ensure universal access to culturally-affirming healthcare; and build the capacity and motivation of Black communities to be the change agents for ending HIV.”
Our first contributors need no introduction. Well-known in their respective fields, Patrick Sullivan, PhD, DVM, Nic Carlisle, JD, and Samira
Column By: Tiffany Smith Tiffany lives in Atlanta, GA and works with the Emory COMPASS Coordinating Center. She previously worked