The Gilead Grant: Humanizing HRC’s HIV Advocacy Work

by Jarred Keller

In 2021, there were 1.5 million new cases of HIV, with disproportionately high rates affecting Black and Latine communities, prompting the Human Rights Campaign’s programs—Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Trans Justice Initiative (TJI) and HIV Health & Equity (HHE)—to partner with Gilead Sciences on its mission to fully eradicate HIV by 2030.

Over the last two years, and thanks to a $3.2 million dollar grant from Gilead, HRC reached and educated 14 million people through in-person and digital efforts on HIV, health equity, and health positivity. HRC’s public health fellowships, training, and peer facilitator programs empowered Black and Latine young adults, collegiate leaders, and activists to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion and health equity in their communities nationwide. This year, Gilead is continuing this partnership by providing HRC a 3-year, $5M grant — the largest grant in HRC history.

"Under the first major Gilead grant, the Trans Justice Initiative was able to directly invest in more than 150 trans and non-binary advocates and organizations through our leadership development, public education, and grant programs,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative.

“In addition, we were able to provide $30,000 in small grants to people who often would not qualify for traditional funding opportunities. Working with partners like Lyft, we provided over 4,000 free, safe and affirming rides for trans and non-binary people in both major cities and rural areas across the country. Amplifying the voices of Black and Latine trans and non-binary people through this grant is at the core of TJI’s work and it makes me proud to be a part of such an impactful initiative.”

As a nontraditional partner to Gilead Sciences, and most HIV funders, the new $5M grant will provide HRC and TJI unique opportunities to engage HRC's vast network in ways that have never existed.

Transgender and non-binary communities have continued to be underserved and underrepresented and TJI aims to reduce disparities through education, empowerment and actions,”

Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative

The first Gilead grant enabled TJI and HRC’s HIV and Health Equity (HHE) team to partner with community organizations to provide at-home HIV testing kits and timely and up to date HIV and STI information. The new grant will allow them to expand on this critical work.

"In addition to disseminating 5,000 testing kits, HRC provided referrals to PrEP providers in high-risk areas and linked individuals living with HIV to care via navigation services. The kits included an OraQuick oral swab, condoms, lubricants, and a test information card to help those living with HIV secure the care they deserve,” said Torrian Baskerville, HRC’s HIV Health & Equity Director. “Through this generous grant, we were able to establish the Community-based organization (CBO) Leadership Council, which targets regions across the country that are the most impacted by HIV including: Greenville, MS, (Community Health PIER); Miami, FL, and Puerto Rico (Arianna’s Center); Washington DC (Us Helping Us); Indianapolis, IN (BU Wellness Network); and New Orleans, LA (Brotherhood Incorporated)."

Adding to the impact of the first grant, HRC will utilize the new 3-year grant to further build out its approach to HIV awareness and safety by focusing on the following initiatives:

Expanding HIV Self-Testing Program

  • Expanding our HIV self-testing program by increasing the number of partners we are working with– growing from one local partner to six partners located nationally in four regions.
  • Providing follow-ups with those who received a test kit to (1) ensure they took the test, (2) to document the result of that test, and (3) to assist with getting them connected to additional services, i.e., PrEP, treatment, or supportive services.
  • Partnering with CVS Health to provide additional resources to recipients of HIV self-testing kits to attain PrEP or treatment services.

Benchmarking Tool

  • Developing a benchmarking tool for public and private HIV service providers to improve quality of service provision and increase equitable and culturally responsive care to those living with HIV and engaging in preventive HIV services.
  • This tool will assist in developing an HIV service provider resource book for those seeking an equitable and culturally responsive provider and connect providers with low benchmarking with capacity building/technical assistance opportunities to improve areas of growth.

Leadership Development

  • Centering a Black cisgender and trans-identified female cohort to help expand the work of Black women in HIV services.
  • Provide the cohort an opportunity to attend the State of Black Health conference organized by the Center for Black Health & Equity (The Center).

Community Events

  • Expand our community engagement and impact directly into Black and Latin communities through conferences, events, and other sponsorships with innovative approaches to address HIV in highly impacted communities.

The impact of these programs is felt most by those who have benefited from the grant and those stories humanize HRC’s HIV advocacy work.

“One of the highlights stemming from the Gilead grant has been the graduation of the ELEVATE and ACTIVATE fellows,” said Cooper. “The pandemic limited our ability to host in-person convenings, so the fellows decided to extend their one-year commitment and after almost 18 months, we were able to finally host an in person convening at HRC.
We had an incredible 97% completion rate even after the extended time period and as a result, of the leadership skills they learned, several fellows have started businesses and built lifelong friendships.”

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The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.