Meet the Atlanta Activist Determined to Fight HIV in Her Southern Trans Community
GLAAD announced this week that it is partnering with Gilead Sciences, Inc., 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. Douglas Brooks, senior director of community management at Gilead and former director of the Office of National AIDS Policy for the Obama Administration, will join 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. She continued:
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.
“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.”
Douglas Brooks will share the stage with Tori 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.
“I am very excited to be presenting at the GLAAD Media Awards alongside Douglas Brooks to discuss Gilead and GLAAD’s combined efforts to address the immense challenges the LGBTQ and HIV and AIDS communities face in the South,” Cooper told Hornet in a statement.
“Together we can help those impacted by HIV and AIDS — particularly my sisters and brothers in the trans community — overcome these challenges and lead healthier lives.”
The transgender community is more highly impacted by the HIV epidemic than any other group of people on the face of the earth. In the south, the rate for black trans women is essentially one out of two. Since we are a smaller group of people, this means our community represents the most impacted. If HIV and LGBT organizations prioritized the “T,” then we would see a significant change in the dire circumstances in which we live. Make us a priority and not merely an afterthought.
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.
“We have the ability to end this epidemic,” says Cooper. “We have the ability to change lives by providing the trans community with the tools and resources needed to save ourselves. Invest in us. Believe in us. Remember us.”