Dr. Shanell McGoy and Dr. Allison Matthews spoke to D.C. Editor Micha Green about their work in HIV/AIDS Awareness. (Courtesy Photo)

By Savanna Samuels
Special to the AFRO

The Gilead COMPASS Initiative utilizes their resources to help focus on the HIV/AIDS epidemic that plagues the Southern United States by combatting stigmas and providing access to healthcare, while improving its quality.  The Gilead COMPASS Initiative has produced three areas of focus that support holistic solutions for the HIV/AIDSneeds of the U.S. South. These areas include “Capacity Building and Shared Knowledge; Well-being, Mental Health and Trauma informed Care; and Awareness, Education, and Anti-Stigma Campaigns.  Leading up to National Women and Girls HIV/ Awareness Day on March 10, experts and advocates Dr. Allison Mathews and Dr. Shanell L. McGoy spoke on AFRO Live, with D.C. Editor Micha Green, to shed light on HIV/AIDS awareness and the importance of local leadership and advocacy work.

“It’s so important that we have these conversations about our health,” said McGoy, who is director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Gilead Sciences.

Starting in 2017, The Gilead COMPASS (Commitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States) is a 100-million-dollar initiative committed to over ten years of support toward organizations whom address the HIV/AIDS epidemics.  According to AIDSVu.org, in the South, there are approximately 433,000 people who are currently living with HIV and despite the region only accounting for 38 percent of the country’s population, the area makes up 52 percent of new HIV diagnoses nationally.  Even further, when looking at AIDS-related deaths, 49 percent accounted for are based in the U.S. South.  

Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity has joined forces with The Gilead COMPASS Initiative to change the narrative of the relationship between sexual health and faith that has had a gripping stigma within faith communities.  Mathews is an adjunct professor of sociology at Wake Forest and said she believes it is time for Black churches to preach to more than just the choir when it comes to the ideals of faith and applying them to all people.

“For the faith communities, I think there is some healing and some introspection that we have to take within ourselves.  But also, there’s a legacy of social justice and advocacy and fighting for what’s right.  And so, I have started to see faith communities are opening up to those conversations around LGTBQ+ issues and HIV,” said Mathews.

When looking for advocates and leadership, Black women have been historically known to be in the forefront of forward moving and thinking in many areas of society.  According to Dr. McGoy, 67 percent of the 19 percent of women diagnosed with HIV are Black.

 “We are oftentimes the healthcare, the caregivers for so many others- for so many others in our communities and our families, but we also need to address our own health, particularly our sexual health,” McGoy told the AFRO.

As the nation continues to survive through the COVID-19 virus, making sure that those with HIV are remaining healthy has been a priority to the Gilead COMPASS Initiative.  Dr. Mathews pointed out there are various vulnerabilities that those with HIV might have and the creativity it will take to give more support to them during these unprecedented times.

To learn more about The Gilead COMPASS Initiative and their efforts, visit Gileadcompass.com.