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Face of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility Obstetrics and Gynecology

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As a leading fertility specialist, Dr. Norian is passionate about helping our LGBTQ community achieve their goals of family building. Whether this involves helping gay men to become fathers through egg donation and surrogacy or assisting gay women through donor sperm inseminations or reciprocal IVF.  His philosophy in helping those realize their dreams of having a family combines both the precision and science of reproductive medicine with a warm and compassionate style of doctoring.  

His areas of expertise include in-vitro fertilization (IVF), pre-implantation genetic screening (PGT), sex selection, egg freezing, optimal treatment for low responders, LGBTQ fertility treatments, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). He has been a supporter of the LGBTQ community, often speaking out on the importance of helping all intended parents achieve their dreams of having children. Dr. Norian and his multilingual clinical team offer high-quality individualized care resulting in renown success rates and it is because of this his patients come from around the world seeking treatment with him. 

Dr. Norian has authored over 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and coauthored books focusing on reproductive biology and fertility and regularly presents at national and international meetings. His interests include trail running, reading, and enjoying time outdoors with his family. 

University of California, Berkeley (undergraduate); Royal College of Surgeons (medical school); obstetrics and gynecology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York (residency); reproductive endocrinology and infertility, National Institutes of Health, Maryland (fellowship).  He is currently a volunteer Associate Clinical Professor at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Huntington Memorial Hospital, San Antonio Regional Hospital 

Los Angeles Magazine Southern California Super Doctors, Inland Empire Magazine Top Doctor, Castle Connelly Top Doctor, Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Registry Chairperson, American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Prize papers, Society for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Associates: Chairperson, Royal College of Surgeons, Council medals: Best Research Paper & Presentation, University of California, Berkeley: Honors Society member

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“A Strange Loop” Creator Invites Audiences: Come Along for the Ride

The ground-breaking and critically acclaimed winner of every ‘Best Musical’ award on Broadway, and the Pulitzer Prize, bursts onto the stage for a limited engagement, direct from Broadway.

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From L to R: TARRA CONNER JONES, JORDAN BARBOUR, JOHN-ANDREW MORRISON, MALACHI MCCASKILL, AVIONCE HOYLES, J. CAMERON BARNETT, and JAMARI JOHNSON WILLIAMS in “A Strange Loop” at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre June 5 through June 30, 2024. (Photo by Alessandra Mello)

By Bekah Wright | LOS ANGELES – “Come with an open mind and be ready to let your freak flag fly as you watch it, because that’s what we’re doing onstage.” This is the mandate Michael R. Jackson, creator of “A Strange Loop,” has for audiences attending Center Theatre Group’s (in conjunction with American Conservatory Theater) run at the Ahmanson Theatre from June 5-30.

Synopses for “A Strange Loop” speak to creative types pursuing a dream. “Hell-bent on breaking free of his own self-perception, Usher, a young, gay, Black writer who hates his day job, writes a musical about a young, gay, Black writer who’s writing a musical about a young, gay, Black writer…a strange loop. Usher grapples with desires, identity, and instincts he both loves and loathes, all brought to life on stage by a hilarious, straight-talking ensemble.”

Taking the stage as Usher, an usher for the Disney stage production of “The Lion King,” is Malachi Mc- Caskill. Disrupting his world and creative process is an ensemble of thought characters: Tarra Conner Jones (Thought 1), Cameron Barnett (Thought 2), J. Avionce Hoyles (Thought 3), Tony Award nominee John-Andrew Morrison (Thought 4), Jordan Barbour (Thought 5) and Carlis Shane Clark (Thought 6).

A Thought audience members often zero in on: Daily Self-Loathing. Jackson says, “Most people say this character exists in some version in their own mind.”

Many will find the story behind Jackson and “A Strange Loop” and their journey to stages from Broadway to London and California relatable. “A lot of people say, ‘This is my life;’” Jackson remarks, “that “A Strange Loop” speaks to some truth that resonates with them.”

“Healing” is another word audiences often equate with “A Strange Loop.” Especially when topics or comments most often hidden in public are voiced. Jackson says, “Hearing those things said out loud makes them feel uncomfortable, but also validated in some ways.”

“A Strange Loop” has racked up awards, including two Tonys—one for Best Musical, another for Best Book of a Musical—and a Pulitzer for Drama. Yet, Jackson, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, didn’t have a prepared speech for any of the presentations—something unusual for a person with his passion for words.

Born in Detroit, Jackson was a child actor. By 13, his interest had changed to writing. His dream job? “I wanted to become the head writer for the soap opera ‘One Life to Live.’” A behind-the-scenes internship with ABC’s “All My Children” would give him a taste of that world.

Jackson’s passion for writing spurred “A Strange Loop” into being over 20 years ago. At the time, a 23-year-old Jackson had just graduated from NYU’s undergraduate playwriting program and was thrust into the “real world.” “I started writing this thinly veiled personal monologue about what it felt like to be a young Black gay man at that time,” he recalls. “I didn’t have any ambitions for it being a musical or anything like that.”

In graduate school, back at NYU, the monologue made an appearance, this time connected to lyrics Jackson was writing, including those for “Memory Song,” one of the 17 songs that would eventually be featured in the one-hour and 40-minute musical.

While Jackson was working day jobs, from theatre usher for “The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins” and “Aladdin,” to behind-the-scenes on soap operas, “A Strange Loop” started coming to life. In November 2016, Playwrights Horizons held a full concert reading in New York City. “The day of the reading, Trump was elected,” Jackson recalls. “Everyone came with all this Manhattan liberal despair, and the show very powerfully alchemized that. It was defiantly itself and gave people a little burst of energy.”

The musical’s next stop was off-Broadway, where it received critical acclaim. Next up, “A Strange Loop” was set for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC, when Covid struck. After a delay, a seven- week run concluded on January 9, 2022.

Broadway was in “A Strange Loop’s” sights, where it opened at the Lyceum Theatre on April 26, 2022 with a slew of entertainment notables onboard as producers, among them Jennifer Hudson, RuPaul Charles, Don Cheadle, Frank Marshall, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling and Billy Porter.

After closing on Broadway on January 15, 2023, “A Strange Loop” premiered in London at the Barbican Theatre from June 17 to September 9, 2023. Currently, the musical is making its West Coast debut, starting in San Francisco with a run at The Toni Rembe Theatre (formerly the Geary Theatre) before it opens in Los Angeles June 5.

Jackson is curious to experience the energy of West Coast audiences in regards to “A Strange Loop.” “I think it will take people a minute to really get on the ride, or maybe they’ll get on it right away. The show’s audacity is infectious, and people will take to it because it’s something new—there’s nothing else like it.”

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The San Francisco Principles 2020 and aging with grace, dignity and HIV

Thanks to groundbreaking innovations in HIV care and treatment, more than half of U.S. adults living with HIV today are over 50

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Photo Credit: Gilead HIV Age Positively®

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Vince Crisostomo was told he was not going to live past 30. And then 32. And then 34. Now, at 63, Vince serves as the Director of Aging Services at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, spearheading initiatives supporting the growing population of individuals aging with HIV, many of whom, like himself, never expected to reach old age. 

Thanks to groundbreaking innovations in HIV care and treatment, more than half of U.S. adults living with HIV today are over 50. By 2030, that number is estimated to increase to nearly 70 percent – a figure that was unimaginable 30 years ago. This transformation is a tremendous step forward, but has also meant that current models of care are largely unequipped to support a new, aging population with distinct care and treatment needs.

Individuals aging with HIV may face different challenges than other aging individuals. Medically, people living with HIV are more likely to develop age-related conditions like cancer or heart disease. Socially, older individuals with HIV are less likely to access supportive services due to isolation, lack of social networks and a healthcare system unprepared to meet their needs. Many long-term survivors also face financial insecurity, having not saved for a retirement they didn’t foresee. While networks of friendships and social companionships are integral to sustaining people as they age, many survivors have also lost friends to the epidemic that might have otherwise taken care of them.

“Obviously, it’s important to improve healthcare outcomes for everybody. Our current system is in need of a huge overhaul,” says Crisostomo. “But for individuals aging with HIV, it sometimes feels like providers didn’t get the memo that individuals with HIV are equal and recognized. It feels like a throwback. It can be a little traumatizing.”

Recognizing these gaps, Gilead launched HIV Age Positively® in 2019, a grant program aimed at supporting community-based organizations focused on improving the quality of life and health for older Americans aging with HIV. Over the past five years, the initiative has awarded more than $35.8 million in grants to support 42 organizations working to address stigma, loneliness and better coordination of care for impacted individuals. 

One HIV Age Positively grant recipient is Crisostomo’s department. Aging Services at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation houses 50-Plus which is one of the oldest HIV & Aging programs in the country, providing personal share and support groups, social activities and volunteer opportunities for gay, bisexual and Trans men aged 50 and older as well as other programs. Under Crisostomo’s leadership, the services have become a lifeline for older residents aging with HIV, creating vital social connections and providing a sense of community to over 500 active members. But Crisostomo’s vision extends far beyond the Bay Area

In 2020, along with advocates Paul A. Aguilar, Harry Breaux, Michael Rouppet and Hank Trout, Crisostomo created the San Francisco Principles 2020– a response to the seminal HIV rights statement Denver Principles of 1983 – to elevate the voices of long-term HIV survivors and call for their inclusion in shaping policies and care models. “It’s a conversation, a call to action and a reminder that we’re still here,” Crisostomo explains. “Among long-term survivors, we often say ‘nothing about us without us’. You don’t become irrelevant after 50 –we deserve a place at the table.”

The Principles sparked a significant response, with over 400 people around the world signing up to support the message. In May 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors officially endorsed the document, which Crisostomo hopes will drive a “happier ending” for long-term survivors.

“We didn’t live through this epidemic only for things to get worse,” says Crisostomo. “We understand that this work might not benefit us. But it will hopefully benefit future generations.” 

Critical support comes from initiatives like Gilead’s HIV Age Positively, one of the few U.S. initiatives funding HIV and aging work. These grants support programs that help survivors “age with grace and dignity,” Crisostomo says, and crucially, elevates those most impacted.

“As our generation passes away, people aren’t going to remember what happened,” Crisostomo shares. “This part of the history will be gone. And it’s a part of our history that needs to be known so we don’t repeat it. Those of us aging with HIV need to lend our voices, otherwise someone else will write the story and it won’t be the story we lived.”

HIV AGE POSITIVELY, GILEAD, the GILEAD Logo, are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.

© 2024 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Women and HIV: A Deeper Look at Today’s Needs and Tomorrow’s Path to a Cure 

Misconceptions around HIV continue to play a major role in hindering women, both cisgender and transgender, from knowing their HIV status

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Image courtesy of Gilead Sciences, Inc

By Deborah Wafer | FOSTER CITY, Calif. – As the HIV epidemic has evolved, so too has our approach to HIV care to ensure we’re meeting the needs of a broad range of people impacted by the virus.

At the outset of the HIV epidemic, women’s health—especially the health of women of color—was often overlooked. But a tremendous amount of progress has been made to ensure women are getting the care and support they need. I’m grateful for our many community partners who are leading these conversations, as they are key to informing our efforts in HIV treatment and prevention research.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Natalie Sanchez, MPH, Director of the UCLA Los Angeles Family AIDS Network, to talk about our shared passion for addressing HIV as long-time advocates for women’s health and what it will take to end the HIV epidemic.

Deborah Wafer, PA, RNP: We’ve been privileged to live through tremendous innovations in HIV over the years that have significantly changed the course of the epidemic. Thinking back on my time working as a nurse practitioner in the 90s, I vividly remember the weight that an HIV diagnosis carried for so many. 

Natalie Sanchez

Natalie Sanchez, MPH: I completely agree. I’ve been working in the HIV space in Los Angeles for around twenty years now, and I am amazed at the progress we’ve made in HIV treatment and prevention. Yet, my role has given me a front-row seat to the unmet needs that are hindering our efforts to help end the HIV epidemic. One group that continues to be deeply affected by the virus but is not often at the forefront of these conversations is women—in particular, women of color. We know that in 2021, nearly one in five new HIV diagnoses in the US were among women, and the majority were among women of color, with Black and Hispanic/Latine women representing a combined 72% of new HIV diagnoses.

Deborah Wafer, PA, RNP: Yes, I know it continues to be an immense challenge to ensure women are not overlooked in this space. 

Natalie Sanchez, MPH: What is also troubling is that the latest data from 2019 showed a disproportionate impact of perinatal HIV diagnoses among Black and Hispanic/Latine communities in the US. If we truly want to overcome the HIV epidemic, we need to ensure that women are prioritized in our research and advocacy efforts, so that we are effectively tackling any existing barriers and providing the holistic care they need and deserve. 

Deborah Wafer, PA, RNP: We know that holistic care can only be truly comprehensive if we’re also addressing the other factors that may impact a woman’s journey with HIV. Women affected by HIV face unique challenges in accessing necessary care, such as racism, discrimination, and HIV-related stigma that can prevent some women from seeking HIV testing, treatment, or prevention services. Recognizing and breaking down these barriers will play a critical role in helping improve health outcomes for women affected by HIV. 

Natalie Sanchez, MPH: I think one of the most significant barriers that you mentioned is stigma—something that is unfortunately still so evident today. Misconceptions around HIV continue to play a major role in hindering women, both cisgender and transgender, from taking the first step toward knowing their HIV status and getting the care they need. Unfortunately, women who don’t know they have HIV are often unable to access the treatment they need. This can lead to a higher likelihood of transmitting HIV to others and ultimately can hinder our progress in ending the epidemic. 

Deborah Wafer, PA, RNP: Combatting the misconceptions around HIV is a critical component of our efforts, yes. The other piece comes in with research and clinical development. Ending the HIV epidemic will require substantially greater inclusion of women in clinical research, as women, particularly women from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in research, young women, and transgender women, remain disproportionately affected by HIV. We must prioritize engaging women in the conception stage all the way through the execution of clinical studies to ensure that the medicines we’re delivering are effective for a broad range of people with HIV, regardless of their phase of life or experiences. In the late 90s, I had the opportunity to be a part of a clinical study of pregnant women with HIV—something that was not very common at the time—that helped determine the potential of mother-to-child transmission of HIV could be reduced by nearly 70% if HIV treatment was given to the mother during pregnancy and labor and delivery, and to the newborn. While this type of HIV transmission has declined by more than 95% in the US since the early 1990s, pregnant women with HIV still remain underrepresented in clinical trials.

Natalie Sanchez, MPH: I have also been greatly encouraged by the advancements made in HIV treatment research since the height of the epidemic. I’ve had the opportunity to support women through their initial HIV diagnosis, first pregnancy, and birth post-diagnosis, as well as subsequent pregnancies. And, I welcome that there are now options available for a person to remain on HIV treatment during pregnancy, which can be determined via consultation with their healthcare provider. Another exciting recent advancement was the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supporting women’s choice to breastfeed, in accordance with discussions with their providers and with a sustained undetectable viral load and antiretroviral therapy adherence. I’ve heard women express how meaningful such updates have been to remain confident in their HIV treatment plans and help connect with their newborns.

Deborah Wafer, PA, RNP: Yes, the fact that we are seeing the guidelines from the CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) updated and the FDA recognizes more clinical data around the safety and efficacy of HIV treatments for pregnant women is truly exciting. But we can’t stop here. There is still much more work to be done, which is one of the reasons I came to Gilead in the first place. Gilead has prioritized person-centric research in HIV since the very beginning, working directly alongside the community to spearhead many of the innovations that have helped transform HIV care into what it is today. But beyond that, our researchers truly have a passion for health equity and are dedicated to providing communities in need with access to innovative HIV treatment and prevention medications, including women. 

Natalie Sanchez, MPH: We know that ending the HIV epidemic will require significant collaborative efforts from all of us, including leading partners like Gilead, community advocates, researchers, healthcare professionals, government officials, and more. To me, stable HIV diagnoses in women are not progress. More efforts need to, and will, focus on reducing new HIV diagnoses in women, beginning with prevention. In doing so, we are ensuring that everyone impacted by HIV, including groups that have historically been underrepresented in research like women, remain at the center of our conversations, innovations, and collective efforts to end the HIV epidemic once and for all.

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Deborah Wafer, PA, RNP is the Senior Director, Public Affairs, US Virology Community Engagement and Advocacy for Gilead Sciences.

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GILEAD and the GILEAD Logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.

© 2024 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. US-UNBC-2154 05/24

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GLAAD’s Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative Spotlights Black LGBTQ+ Creatives in Entertainment

EMEI is part of Gilead and GLAAD’s ongoing partnership to address disparities and advance equity across all areas of life for the LGBTQ+ community

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Victor Jackson (Photo by Jonathan Elijah/JElijah Photos)

By Edwina Eyre | LOS ANGELES – Victor Jackson always knew he wanted to be involved in the arts. As the oldest of four children whose parents met in college choir, Victor grew up dancing, singing and performing around his house in College Park, Georgia.

Three decades later, it’s no surprise that he’s making a name for himself as a multi-hyphenate – choreographer, creative director and musician – and more recently, one of the 10 individuals selected for GLAAD’s 2024 cohort for the Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative (EMEI), a program focused on spotlighting talented LGBTQ+ music artists of color and highlighting their valuable contributions to the music and entertainment scene.

Launched in 2022, EMEI is a pipeline program aimed at addressing existing representation gaps within the entertainment industry by shining a spotlight on queer creatives who are driving culture in media. The program was created by GLAAD’s Communities of Color & Media department, and is supported by Gilead Sciences – individuals selected for the cohort receive a $10,000 stipend to support their creative ventures, in addition to assistance building professional connections.  

Victor first heard about EMEI from friends who were involved in the inaugural cohort focused on Black LGBTQ+ filmmakers. The first year of the initiative was a huge success – the 10 chosen grantees attended monthly professional development meetings, fireside chats, panels, networking events and GLAAD’s inaugural Black Queer Creative Summit to foster networking and career development opportunities. Each member of the cohort also received direct funding to complete a short creative project.

“I saw how the first year of EMEI allowed my friends in the cohort to expand their creative work through new opportunities and funding,” said Victor. “I’d also worked closely with GLAAD on other projects, and was aligned with their advocacy in LGBTQ+ media. So when they announced that EMEI’s second year was going to be focused on musicians, I started becoming very intentional in my visualization for myself.” 

This visualization worked, and Victor was chosen to be a part of the 2024 EMEI cohort, along with 2am Ricky, Albanus Thierry, Asiahn, Damez, Mylah Muse, Neverending Nina, SHAH, Siaira Shawn and Suni MF. So far, the group has joined the NFL and GLAAD in Vegas for “A Night of Pride” during Super Bowl weekend.

They also attended the inaugural Academy Proud event during GRAMMY weekend. In March, Victor performed his original music at #GLAADhonors at El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, California – a space where he’d previously choreographed shows for other musicians. 

“A lot of organizations will provide funding and that will be it,” said Victor. “EMEI goes one step further by not only giving us the funding, but also providing the footing to stand in these commercial spaces as our independent, authentic selves.” 

Perhaps even more important than opportunity, EMEI has provided a community. The 2024 cohort has a groupchat where they uplift and support each other’s work. They’re even in touch with many artists from the first filmmaking cohort, who have offered to help direct and produce music videos for the titles they’re working on. 

“Being an independent artist can be lonely,” says Victor. “You don’t have a team or a huge machine behind you. It’s you on your computer, in the studio and behind the camera. Being a part of the EMEI cohort has given me a family of independent artists who look and love like me.” 

EMEI is part of Gilead and GLAAD’s ongoing partnership to address disparities and advance equity across all areas of life for the LGBTQ+ community and those diagnosed and impacted by the HIV epidemic. Since 2018, the two organizations have collaborated to promote LGBTQ+ advocacy and tackle HIV stigma through a multi-year, multi-platform and multi-movement alliance focused on sparking global conversations about health equity and allyship. 

Victor just released a new single, April Showers, which you can stream here.

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Gilead’s TRANScend® Community Impact Fund helps break down barriers to HIV care and treatment for Transgender individuals

Although TDOV has come and gone, it’s important to continue recognizing the barriers to equitable care facing Transgender Americans

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Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of The Translatin@ Coalition. (Photo Credit: The Translatin@ Coalition)

By Edwina Eyre | LOS ANGELES – On Sunday, communities around the world commemorated Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), an international day of recognition that lifts up the valuable contributions of Transgender individuals while acknowledging the work left to be done to eradicate systemic inequalities facing this community.  

While TDOV is a time to celebrate the Transgender community, these individuals continue to face significant social and structural barriers when trying to access quality health care and treatment globally.  

These barriers are especially prevalent when it comes to the HIV epidemic. Today, Transgender individuals in the United States experience disproportionately high rates of HIV compared to cisgender peers, an alarming trend that’s exacerbated by stigma and transphobia. The rate of Transgender Americans living with HIV is four times higher than the rate of cisgender Americans living with HIV. Additionally, the 2022 U.S. Transgender Survey – the largest survey of its kind to be conducted in the U.S. – found that 24% of survey respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to in the last 12 months due to fear of mistreatment. These disparities are even more severe when it comes to Transgender communities of color, who face compounding health inequities like racism and discrimination in the context of the epidemic. A staggering 62% of Black Transgender women live with HIV, compared to 35% of Latina and 17% of white Transgender women.

“The Transgender community is one of beauty and hope, yet Transgender individuals continue to face barriers when it comes to accessing quality HIV care and treatment,” says Jane Stafford, Executive Director of Public Affairs at Gilead Sciences. “Never has there been a more critical time for advocates, leaders and allies to join together and advance equitable HIV health outcomes for Transgender people, and we know that the best ideas for addressing lasting health equity obstacles come from the ingenuity of people who are creating change at the local level.” 

In 2018, Gilead convened an Advisory Board with experts and community advocates from Transgender advocacy and healthcare organizations to learn where deep investments were needed to support the Transgender community. Gilead launched the TRANScend Community Impact Fund in 2019 directly out of these conversations, an initiative aimed at supporting Trans-led and serving organizations working to improve the safety, health and wellness of the Transgender community. Since its inception, the program has provided over $9 million to 26 organizations across the country to support grantmaking, capacity building and direct services. In its second phase alone, the fund has reached over 10,000 Transgender individuals through its support of grantee programming, including training, service provision and linkage to care.

One of these grantees is The Translatin@ Coalition, a national advocacy organization based in Los Angeles, California focused on supporting the Trans Latinx community in the United States. Founded in 2009 by advocate and community organizer Bamby Salcedo, the organization works to empower the Trans Latinx community through service provision, and influence change at an institutional level through state and federal policy work.

“At The Translatin@ Coalition, we believe that we can’t address the HIV epidemic without first addressing structural and social needs at an individual level,” said Salcedo. “By ensuring access to essentials like food, housing and workforce development, we can significantly diminish the impact of HIV within our community.”

The Translatin@ Coalition’s commitment to holistic service provision goes beyond food, housing and employment. The organization provides a comprehensive array of support services aimed at addressing the social determinants of health for Transgender individuals, including reentry services, support for those exiting incarceration or immigration detention, programs tailored for aging Transgender individuals, legal assistance, violence prevention services and a multitude of other initiatives designed to uplift and support the livelihoods of the Los Angeles Transgender community. 

“As someone who themselves has been directly impacted by the social determinants of health, including the carceral system, homelessness and violence, and who has had the privilege of reforming my own life, I understand that I also have a responsibility to my community, and to uplifting and empowering those who are in similar situations,” said Salcedo. “We’re grateful for the support of the TRANScend Community Impact Fund, which not only supports Trans-led organizations but also empowers Trans individuals as a whole.”

Although TDOV has come and gone, it’s important to continue recognizing the barriers to equitable care facing Transgender Americans while supporting impactful, Trans-serving organizations like The Translatin@ Coalition. True HIV prevention can’t be just a one-time affair –  it’s a continuous commitment to dismantling the structural and social foundations still contributing to lasting health inequities for Transgender individuals and other vulnerable communities across the country.

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HIV (Should Not Be) a Crime

HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day, held on February 28, draws attention to the more than 30 U.S. states that continue to criminalize HIV

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Health Union /Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Liz Brown | NEW YORK – On New Years Eve in 2007, Robert Suttle met a man and very quickly, the two hit it off. That night, Suttle had worked up the courage to tell the man his truth: he was living with HIV. This did not deter the man from casually dating Suttle, but about three months later, they broke up and went their separate ways.

Months after the split, police officers showed up unannounced at Suttle’s place of work and arrested him on the spot. His crime? Suttle’s former partner claimed he had never disclosed his HIV status before they had sex, which is illegal in Louisiana under the “Intentional Exposure to HIV” statute. In other words, Suttle was criminalized for being diagnosed with HIV. Because of this unjust and discriminatory offense, Suttle was sentenced to six months in prison in 2010 and had to add his name to the Louisiana sex offense registry, where it still remains a requirement for him today as a resident of New York state until 2034.  

Suttle’s story is one of several featured as part of HIV Is Not a Crime, a campaign championed by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and funded through support from Gilead Sciences, the nation’s number one overall philanthropic funder of HIV-related programs in 2021 (the most recent yearly data available) according to Funders Concerned About AIDS. The HIV Is Not a Crime campaign advocates for the modernization of laws that criminalize people, like Suttle, who are living with HIV. 

While Suttle’s story is heartbreaking, it is not unique. People living with HIV are unfairly charged and branded as criminals in 34 states. These draconian laws were enacted during the height of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s when a diagnosis was considered a death sentence. Today, innovative scientific breakthroughs and advances in treatment have led to millions to live longer, healthier lives, and HIV being successfully suppressed to the point of it being undetectable. And yet, in too many states, HIV is still a crime.

These laws are not only unjust, but also do nothing to curb the ongoing epidemic. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that criminalizing HIV exacerbates already existing stigma and discourages people from getting tested, finding treatment and disclosing their status.

That’s why it’s still important to recognize HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day on February 28,  an annual awareness day focused on uplifting the voices of those who have been criminalized based on their HIV status. This day falls at the end of Black History Month, which underscores the need to additionally amplify the troubling disparities impacting Black Americans and HIV criminalization. Black people are disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic, and face numerous barriers to care, structural racism, poverty, language barriers, homophobia and more. Anti-Black racism in particular fosters high levels of inequities in both the U.S. healthcare and criminal justice systems, which further exacerbate the disproportionate burden of HIV and over-criminalization of the Black community. In Louisiana, where Suttle lived and was arrested, Black men account for more than 90% of HIV-related arrests, despite only making up just 15% of the state’s population. Understanding which communities are most impacted and why, is key to not only ending the epidemic, but also removing these unjust laws from the books.

HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day is also the time to celebrate the incremental progress that’s been made in many states: Missouri, Nevada, Nevada and Virginia have modernized their HIV criminalization laws; and Texas deleted this statute from its code in 1994, New Jersey and Illinois have fully repealed their HIV-specific laws. Over the last couple of years, progress has been swift. Since 2020, four of these states – Nevada, Illinois, New Jersey and Virginia – have instituted sweeping reforms that include removing sex offender registration from the criminal code, removing discriminatory sentencing that targets sex workers and requiring proof that the person with HIV was intentionally trying to transmit the virus.  

Thanks to the work of advocates like Suttle, and organizations like The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and Gilead, a growing number of Americans living with HIV are also not living in fear of prosecution. 

Today, Suttle lives in New York City and remains a passionate HIV decriminalization advocate. “I want to provide that safe space and share my story to offer people solidarity and hope,” Suttle explained in a Stories@Gilead interview from 2021. “I have seen this movement of HIV decriminalization grow and evolve, more than any of us could have imagined. It’s amazing to support it by telling my story.”

GILEAD and the GILEAD Logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. © 2024 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved.

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New Gilead Initiative Aims to Empower Organizations Tackling the HIV Epidemic for Black Women in the United States

Gilead‘s three-year, $12.6 million commitment will increase HIV prevention and health equity efforts for Black women and girls

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Photo courtesy of Ribbon – Center of Excellence

By Edwina Eyre | CALABASAS, Calif. – In the rapidly-evolving public health landscape, one stark reality has remained constant: Black cisgender and Transgender women bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic. Black women, who constitute only 14% of the female population in the United States, accounted for a staggering 53% of new HIV diagnoses among women aged 13 and older in just 2021 alone.

Additionally, Black Transgender women have the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses among Transgender people and are more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated in comparison to their peers. 

Although medicines like PrEP and PEP can help mitigate these disparities, structural and social factors like stigma, discrimination and economic inequality coupled with significant gaps in the delivery of culturally-competent HIV prevention information and care continue to exacerbate poor health outcomes for Black women and girls impacted by HIV. 

“Since the start of the epidemic 40 years ago, Black women have borne the brunt of annual HIV diagnoses and premature deaths, largely due to the social determinants of health that impact us long before we even get a diagnosis,” said Vanessa Johnson, Co-Executive Director at Ribbon – Center of Excellence, a nonprofit providing support for individuals in need of services for HIV and chronic diseases. “Black women are the caretakers of our communities, but structural and social barriers like poverty, violence and trauma continue to fuel disparities within HIV outcomes, which disproportionately impact us more than any other population group.” 

Last year Gilead Sciences launched the Setting the P.A.C.E. (Prevention, Arts and Advocacy, Community, Education) Initiative to help address these critical issues. This three-year, $12.6 million commitment is aimed at increasing HIV prevention, anti-stigma and health equity efforts for Black cisgender and Transgender women and girls in the United States. 

“At Gilead, we know that we cannot end the HIV epidemic if we do not prioritize the needs of

Black women and girls,” said Carmen Villar, Vice President, Public Affairs, Gilead Sciences. “The Setting the P.A.C.E. Initiative tackles barriers to care head-on by supporting high-impact organizations working to improve the HIV landscape for impacted individuals.”

Setting the P.A.C.E focuses on empowering Black women led- and serving organizations on the front lines of this epidemic, providing them with the tools and resources needed to rewrite the narrative on HIV care and treatment. Through its four key focal points –Prevention, Arts and Advocacy, Community and Education – the program seeks to support projects tackling HIV health barriers for Black women and girls, from expanding programs that provide culturally-responsive HIV care training to leveraging arts and media to engage local communities and address stigma. 

Ribbon – Center of Excellence is one of the 19 grantees that will receive the first round of Setting the P.A.C.E. funding. With support from Gilead, Ribbon will provide capacity-building assistance to other grantee organizations and non-funded groups servicing cisgender and Transgender Black women, focusing their support in the areas of policy, advocacy and convening.  

“Setting the P.A.C.E. will allow us to build a network of groups working to advance HIV health equity for Black women and girls, and foster convening spaces for these organizations,” said Linda H. Scruggs, Co-Executive Director at Ribbon. “There are a lot of organizations working toward our same goals. Once we create multilevel partnerships at federal, state and individual levels, we can identify gaps in policy and funding, and work toward providing services and advocacy to meet these needs.”
The programs that are part of the Setting the P.A.C.E Initiative will be either nationally- or regionally- focused. Most importantly, more than 75% of the organizations selected for grants are led by Black women and every funding allocation is directed toward initiatives spearheaded by Black women.

“Black women are stepping up to lead HIV advocacy and response programs across the country,” said Scruggs. “For the first time, we are building the resources and creating the opportunity to forge new paths toward fixing, healing and protecting our own community. There’s no reason why another generation of Black women, cis or Trans, should be casualties of the HIV epidemic in the years to come.”

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Gilead, GOSPEL, and the importance of Black faith communities in tackling the HIV epidemic

Gilead Sciences’ sponsorship of new PBS docuseries aligns with ongoing HIV prevention efforts among faith communities in the U.S. South

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Gospel, PBS’s new history docuseries that premiered in a set of two-hour specials on February 12th and 13th (Screenshot/YouTube PBS)

Gilead Sciences’ sponsorship of new Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) docuseries aligns with ongoing HIV prevention efforts among faith communities in the U.S. South.

By Edwina Eyre | CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -“For generations, gospel music and preaching have formed the bedrock of the Black religious experience,” narrates renowned scholar and literary critic Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in the trailer for Gospel, PBS’s new history docuseries that premiered in a set of two-hour specials on February 12th and 13th. 

Presented by Gates, Gospel delves into the origins, history and impact of song on Black sermon and spirituality. The series takes viewers on a historical journey beginning in 1930s Chicago, Illinois, where Southern migrants Thomas A. Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe blended blues and jazz to form the foundations of the gospel sound we recognize today, and continues up to the present-day Platinum Age, where more secular beats are contemporizing familiar rhythms featured on our TVs and radios.

Gilead is the presenting sponsor for this series, which directly aligns with their efforts to engage faith communities in the U.S. South around social justice, fostering positive relationships with LGBTQ+ communities and intentional interfaith engagement through their COMPASS Initiative®, a 10-year, more than $100 million commitment to address HIV in the Southern United States.

The COMPASS Initiative was born directly out of a listening and learning tour Gilead conducted throughout the U.S. South in 2017. During the tour, Gilead met with those most directly affected by HIV, mapping out the areas where deep support was needed to end the epidemic in the region. One of the primary realizations that emerged from their discussions was the critical importance of the church and spiritual leaders in changing perceptions of HIV in Black communities and increasing awareness about resources available for individuals struggling with their diagnosis. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black people continue to experience the greatest burden of HIV in the United States. Black Americans account for over 40% of new HIV diagnoses in the United States, despite only making up 14% of the U.S. population. The disproportionate impact on these communities is particularly high in the Southern United States, where Black individuals account for nearly 52% of people living with HIV and 50% of new diagnoses

The church is an essential touchpoint within the Black community, serving as an inclusive hub for gathering and a key institution to access critical services and resources. Regions hit hardest by HIV are familiar with the barriers to care and treatment faced by members of their communities, and the struggles caused by lack of awareness and stigma. Engaging faith leaders and their pulpits in order to address stigma, promote awareness and shift the conversation around HIV is critical in tackling the epidemic for everyone, everywhere. 

Recognizing this importance, Gilead introduced the Wake Forest University School of Divinity as a COMPASS partner in 2021 to engage the Black church and other faith-based communities. Wake Forest serves as the initiative’s fourth coordinating center and focuses on preparing ministry and nonprofit leaders to address the needs of those affected by HIV. In 2022, the Wake Forest Coordinating Center launched “Black Faith and HIV,” a new initiative to mobilize Black faith communities around ending the HIV epidemic. A first-of-its-kind platform, this initiative is a dynamic hub for faith leaders and community members to access a variety of resources and mechanisms for addressing the HIV epidemic, with a particular focus on faith-based trauma and stigma reduction. 

“HIV isn’t just a problem individuals face, it’s a problem communities take on together,” says Dr. Shanell L. McGoy, Senior Director of Public Affairs at Gilead Sciences. “At Gilead, we recognize that engaging faith leaders is a critical component to erasing HIV stigma, shifting the narrative about living with HIV, educating communities and tackling barriers to care, which are fundamental to the success of our COMPASS Initiative.” 

Gospel music, the Black church and the HIV epidemic –  all three ultimately circle back to a theme of community. Whether through the powerful communal experience of singing gospel hymns or other forms of sermon and prayer, the unifying support found within the Black church’s congregation can be critical in reaching communities affected most by HIV and building networks of support to aid them in overcoming the challenges posed by the HIV epidemic. 

You can watch Gospel on the PBS website or app. 

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David Vela: A Champion for LACCD’s LGBTQIA+ Rights

“He reminds me that you can be in politics in an altruistic way, and they don’t have to define you.”

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DAVID VELA (Courtesy of David Vela)

Out of the blocks, David Vela tells people, “I’m not apologetic about having what the right would call a gay agenda.” Likely, this is one of the reasons Vela has made so much headway for LGBTQIA+ rights through his work as the president of Los Angeles County Community College District’s (LACCD) Board of Trustees. For Vela, understanding this need began early.

Born in Boyle Heights, as a child, Vela moved to Echo Park after his mother married his stepfather. The family saved towards buying a house in Linwood. Then, his parents divorced. “I had a pretty tough childhood,” he recalls. “There was a period when I witnessed a lot of violence in our home. We were on food stamps and moved a lot.” Vela applies what he took away from those experiences to his work for the LBGTQIA+ community. 

Then, a single mother, Vela’s mother, moved the family to Bell Gardens, where David spent his school years. While at Bell Gardens High School, Vela got involved in student politics. “Even then, I had a John Galbraith philosophy and understanding that poverty exists, though it’s not spoken about.”

It was Vela’s grandmother who instilled the importance of higher education in him. “She taught me that a college degree is the most important thing you can invest in. No one can take your education away, and it can lift an entire family out of poverty.” 

After high school, Vela attended UC Santa Cruz. With his eye on pre-med, he transferred to UCLA, where he earned his BS in biological anthropology. His passion for public policy was flamed at UCLA, where he undertook the role of vice president of Chicanos in Community Medicine. Additionally, he had an internship with Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, a non-profit that advocates for immigrant rights. The position would prove integral in his future.

Vela was all set to attend medical school when he woke up one morning with a realization—he didn’t want to enter that field. Instead, “I knew I was going to be involved in public policy. I just felt it.” In short order, he found himself in Pepperdine’s Master of Public Policy program with concentrations in international relations and economics, on a full scholarship. In many ways, Vela felt like a fish out of water.  “The notion of upward mobility was a world I’d never been exposed to, so that was a value-added component, although sometimes lonely.” 

Post grad school, Vela began working with Greenlining Institute, an Oakland-based advocacy think tank and non-profit with a mission to provide communities of color—those that had been the targets of redlining in the past—economic opportunities with banks, various foundations and the Federal Reserve. 

While with Greenlining, Vela was contacted by Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez, whom he’d met during his Hermandad Mexicana Nacional internship. At the time, Rivera-Hernandez was Governor Gray Davis’s general counsel. California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) needed Latino and unemployment outreach. Was Vela interested in a senior advisor role? 

“Cathryn was the first person who took a chance on me,” Vela says. He admits though he accepted the job, “I was way too young for that job right out of grad school.” During Vela’s tenure with the EDD, 9/11 occurred. “I was in charge of offering Rapid Service unemployment applications to all the workforce hubs throughout the state.” This was followed by a stint as a senior legislative assistant handling Labor, Transportation, and Economic Development for former California State Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg.

Politics and education suddenly collided for Vela while serving East Los Angeles political aid for LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina. This found him visiting schools for ages K through 12 to alert the community to county services available to them. Vela impressed parent councils of the Montebello School District, who asked him to run for school board. In 2007, Vela heeded their call, ran for school board, and won. “I was an openly gay school board member in a very conservative Latino town.” 

Having witnessed the bullying of LGBTQ students in K-12, one of Vela’s first actions was to pass a districtwide antibullying resolution. “It was revolutionary at the time,” he says. “Back in 2007, parents didn’t even want to recognize that they had gay children.

DAVID VELA (Courtesy of David Vela)

During this time, dual enrollment and articulation movements began. The program made it possible for kids as young as middle school-aged to earn community college credits through their classes. “The fact that we could help students access community colleges was a game-changer,” Vela says. “Once they stepped foot in just one class, their wheels started turning, and they began to see possibilities for their future education.”

It was his first exposure to Los Angeles’ community college system, the largest in America, with nine schools and over 200,000 students. Vela began to see a future for himself there, too. In 2018, Vela was the first openly gay member on LACCD’s board of trustees. “We were at the cusp of what was to be a very draconian, anti-gay agenda from the Trump administration,” he recalls. “I felt like I had to kick doors open and say, ‘I’m here representing queer students of all denominations, shapes and sizes, and we deserve protection.” 

In 2020, Vela stepped into the role of president for the LACCD Board of Trustees. That October, Vela, who also chaired the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQIA+ Affairs, put forth a district-wide LGBTQIA+ Bill of Rights. “At the time, what existed in terms of rights was very piecemeal,” he says. “For example, whereas East LA College had a strong footprint of services and safe zones, West LA College did not.” 

The resolution passed, bringing myriad impactful changes, such as reviewing and updating anti-discrimination policies and procedures. Another focus of the Bill of Rights was a slate of LGBTQIA+ events to bring visibility to the community, starting with an annual celebration of LGBTQIA+ History Month. As momentum has grown, campuses acknowledge Pride Week by flying the Pride Flag. On tap, too, a trans job fair and an LGBTQIA+ ball. The LACCD held its first district-wide Lavender Graduation, a ceremony to honor LGBTQIA+ students and allies for their achievements in LACCD colleges. “It started with 50 students,” Vela says. “Now, in our fifth year, we honored 200 LGBTQIA+ students. It’s one of the most moving things I’ve seen in the district.”

In addition, Vela advocated for safe zones where LGBTQIA+ students could study, hang out, meet with faculty, and address personal situations, such as serving as a safe place for trans women to administer hormones. “It evolved into a campaign for ongoing state funding, which resulted in a $10 million one-time allocation–for either rehabilitating existing structures or building new ones, staff and operations–to have these centers throughout California community colleges.” Several Dream Resource Centers and BIPOC organizations merged into the efforts. That $10 million has become a permanent part of the state budget.

Underway is a district-wide LGBTQIA+ curriculum and courses. “They’re currently embedded within an interdisciplinary model,” Vela says. “And in conjunction with the Academic Center, we’re moving forward with creating an LGBTQIA+ Studies department at each college.” Vela’s term as LACCD board president concludes at the end of 2023. His involvement with the board, though, will continue. 

As integral as LACCD is to Vela’s life, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. He is the owner and chief executive officer of Velada Consulting, a public outreach firm that works with high-level capital construction. Beyond this, he’s a founder of Honor Pac, a political action committee that empowers LGBTQ+ Latina/o/e communities. “We have to stand up,” Vela says. “United, and with the right assistance and community support, we can overcome oppression.” 

The Montebello resident finds time to devote to his family, specifically his grandmother, mom and three nieces. His partner, Victor Valerio, provides a sense of balance in Vela’s high-speed life. “He reminds me that you can be in politics in an altruistic way, and they don’t have to define you.”

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New video series celebrates progress & addresses challenges during Transgender Awareness Week

The new video series builds on Gilead’s long-standing support for the Transgender community through their TRANScend® Community Impact Fund

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Arianna Innuritegui-Lint is the head of the South Florida Chapter of the TransLatin@ Coalition, and founder/director of Arianna’s Center (Screenshot/YouTube GILEAD)

Hosted by GLAAD and Arianna’s Center and produced by Gilead, “Community Conversations: Wellness and Justice in the Trans Community” raises awareness about the struggles faced by Transgender people and increases the visibility of the Transgender community during Transgender Awareness Week. 

By Liz Brown | BURLINGTON, Vt. – Transgender Awareness Week is a week-long celebration of Transgender people in the lead up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20. While both commemorations elevate  the impactful strides made toward achieving  equality and justice for Transgender people, Transgender Day of Remembrance additionally honors the memory of people taken by transphobic violence. 

This year, Transgender Awareness Week comes at a time when Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming people across the United States are facing increased levels of violence and discrimination. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed in the U.S. so far this year, with a large majority targeting Trans people, particularly Trans youth.

To raise awareness and mobilize support for the Transgender community, GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer media advocacy organization, and  Arianna’s Center, a Trans-led service organization working to empower Transgender women of color in Florida and Puerto Rico, released a three-part video series titled, “Community Conversations: Wellness and Justice in the Trans Community.” The series, which was produced in partnership with Gilead, provides viewers with the tools and information needed to fight back against hateful anti-Trans legislation and rhetoric. 

The conversations were hosted by Raquel Willis, media consultant at GLAAD and Daniela Arroyo, media consultant at Arianna’s Center, and featured an all-star lineup of panelists, including Peppermint, television personality and Activist; Schuyler Bailar, LGBTQ+ advocate and author; Tori Cooper, a pioneering leader of Transgender justice and community at the Human Rights Campaign; and Dr. Caryn Whitacre, Associate Director of Trans Behavioral Health at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Panelists held three different conversations – “Transgender People and Legislation,” “Social Justice and the Trans Community” and “Mental Health and Trans Community” –  to discuss issues that directly impact Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming communities. 

During the social justice conversation, Arroyo underscored the critical role of allies in Trans-positive advocacy efforts: “I would tell allies, first of all, to listen and learn. I feel you can really help to just listen to our experiences. Also to advocate for inclusivity — for more inclusive policies and be part of the fight for our community.”

Additionally, Willis highlighted several LGBTQ+ lawmakers who are not only breaking down barriers in office, but also enacting positive change at all levels of government: “Trans folks need to be able to tell our stories on our own terms, but we also need to be respected as the leaders of our own lives and destinies as well.” This was a theme throughout the series – while the Transgender community faces enormous challenges, there are incredible people doing the very necessary work of fighting for equality and justice. 

The new video series builds on Gilead’s long-standing support for the Transgender community through their TRANScend® Community Impact Fund, a program that works to reduce health disparities among the Transgender community by supporting the Trans-led organizations working to improve the safety, health and wellness of the Transgender community.

Through grantmaking, capacity building and direct services – Gilead’s three-pronged approach helps these organizations overcome the challenges they’re facing. Since the fund’s launch in 2019, the initiative has awarded more than $9.2 million in grants to 26 community-led organizations across 15 states.

 
You can watch the full video series here.

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Liz Brown

Liz Brown is a Senior Associate, Communications at Precision Strategies and is based in Burlington, Vermont.

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Gilead: More than Medicine is part of a paid year-long collaboration between Gilead Sciences and the Los Angeles Blade

Arianna’s Center & Gilead: Helping Address Unmet Needs of the Transgender Community in HIV Care:

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