When working to help marginalized groups, especially the HIV community, Gilead Sciences knows it’s important to let the community take the lead.
That’s why the pharma is pledging $3.2 million over two years to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization in the U.S. The money will be distributed through the campaign’s educational arm to support communities disproportionately affected by HIV, particularly communities of color.
Racism, homophobia and transphobia are a few barriers people in those communities face when trying to access HIV prevention and services. It’s especially difficult for Latino and Black men, who statistically face more challenging HIV odds. Research shows that one in two Black men who have sex with men and one in four Latino men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes.
“We’ve been in HIV for 30 years. We know that the only way to really have a sustained change is allowing the communities” to make the changes they want to see, “and the role that we play as a company is making the resources available,” Korab Zuka, Gilead’s VP of corporate giving, said.
The funding will focus on three areas. From a social justice standpoint, the aim is to tackle stigma and discrimination. It will also be used to engage the younger generation, made up of people who don’t have the same real-world perspective as older people who came of age during the AIDS epidemic and may not fully appreciate the impact of HIV.
The third goal of the funding is to improve inclusivity for the trans community. That’s a continuation of HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, a grassroots effort that works with trans organizations to improve public policy through education.
The HRC Fund plans to enlist some 30 historically Black colleges and universities to reach students with HIV education, prevention and treatment. Zuka previously worked with HRC over the years and knows the group’s strengths.
“HRC has the playbook and the toolkits that are necessary to really drive some of the sustained change,” he said.
Gilead has led the HIV PrEP market with blockbuster drug Truvada, but it now faces competition from GSK’s injectible Cabenuva, which was approved in January. Truvada and another HIV drug, Atripla, both lost patent protection last October, but the company has strong follow-ups in both Descovy for PrEP and two-drug HIV med Biktarvy, which is already a blockbuster after two years on the market. Gilead reported HIV portfolio sales of $16.9 billion for 2020, up 3% over the previous year non-pandemic 2019.