GLAAD Partners with Gilead Sciences to Address HIV and AIDS Epidemic in the Southern United States

Former Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy Douglas Brooks and HIV Activist Tori Cooper to discuss “Southern Discomfort” at GLAAD Media Awards on April 12
April 10, 2018

Sue Yacka-Bible
Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8028

Los Angeles, CA - GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, announced today that it is partnering with Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD), a leading innovator in the field of HIV treatment and prevention medicines, to help raise much-needed awareness of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States. The partnership kicks off at the 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on April 12, 2018.

The GLAAD Media Awards honor media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and funds GLAAD's work to accelerate acceptance of the LGBTQ community. A first-time presenting sponsor of the GLAAD Media Awards, Gilead and partners will take to the stage during the event to highlight the work both organizations are doing to fight the lingering discomfort with the LGBTQ community and stigma associated with HIV and AIDS in the South.

Douglas Brooks, senior director of community engagement at Gilead and former director of the Office of National AIDS Policy for the Obama Administration, will join Ms. Tori Cooper, an activist from Atlanta working on behalf of transgender people and people living with HIV, in speaking at the ceremony.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with Gilead to combat the vast challenges the LGBTQ and HIV and AIDS communities face in the South,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “We must stand together to strike down the cultural barriers that still prevent LGBTQ people in the South from living open and authentic lives, or in the case of those impacted by HIV and AIDS, from seeking life-saving help. By working alongside dedicated, like-minded organizations such as Gilead, as well as local advocates, we can achieve deeper understanding and empathy from people in the South.” 

GLAAD’s first annual Accelerating Acceptance study, conducted by The Harris Poll in 2014, revealed what GLAAD termed as “Southern Discomfort,” that many Southerners were still uncomfortable with having LGBTQ people in their families and the communities where they live. The results also showed that Southerners expressed significantly more discomfort about their LGBTQ family, friends, and neighbors than any other regions of the country. GLAAD’S most recent Accelerating Acceptance study, released earlier this year, found an erosion of LGBTQ acceptance across the country. Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Southern United States accounts for approximately 44 percent of all people living with an HIV diagnosis in the country, despite being home to only one third of the population. Experts cite homophobia, transphobia, stigma, systemic discrimination and bias as a major contributing factor to the epidemic.

“Thanks to incredible advocacy and research, HIV no longer has to be a death sentence,” said Brooks. “Biomedical interventions have enabled those of us living with HIV to enjoy a healthy life.  But, due to cultural differences and lack of awareness, many people in the South don’t share this reality, and with GLAAD’s help we plan to change that.”

Brooks will share the stage with Ms. Cooper at the Los Angeles awards ceremony in a joint speech to urge attendees to join in the organizations’ efforts to combat HIV and AIDS in the South.

“Ignorance about HIV and AIDS in the South has deadly consequences, with nearly half of all HIV and AIDS-related deaths occurring in that region,” said Ms. Cooper, Prevention Specialist for Atlanta’s Positive Impact Health Centers. “We must take action to provide resources to communities in the South, where too many people cannot access, or worse, are still unaware of life-saving tools to prevent and treat HIV.”

Gilead has been at the forefront of discovering and advancing treatment options in areas of unmet medical need, including treatments for HIV, for more than 30 years. But, despite tremendous advances in treatment, HIV is still an epidemic, and it continues to have a heavy impact among the most marginalized communities, particularly those in the Southern United States. Gilead recently launched the Gilead COMPASS (COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV and AIDS in Southern States) Initiative™, a 10-year, $100 million commitment to support organizations working to address the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States. Through this initiative, Gilead plans to dramatically increase the reach of organizations working to address the epidemic in the region and ultimately to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS.

Several of the media projects nominated for GLAAD Media Awards nominees address LGBTQ people living with HIV and address efforts to bring LGBTQ acceptance to southern and rural areas. Read about these nominees at:

GLAAD previously announced that actress, comedian, and writer Wanda Sykes will host the Los Angeles event, while Britney Spears and Jim Parsons will receive honors. There will also be special appearances at the event by celebrities and notables including Halle Berry, Ryan Murphy, Lena Waithe, Olympian Adam Rippon, Chloe Grace Moretz, Wilson Cruz, Anthony Rapp, Rachel Bloom, Gigi Gorgeous, and Ben Feldman.