Gilead shows how $100M COMPASS Initiative is changing direction of the HIV epidemic

Gilead Sciences is taking stock at the halfway point of its $100 million push to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the southern U.S., working with a historically Black academic health science center to publish papers on the impact of the funding.

California-based Gilead made a 10-year, $100 million commitment to tackling HIV in the southern U.S. through its COMPASS Initiative. The initiative, which Gilead disclosed at the end of 2017, is intended to support organizations working to address the epidemic. Gilead asked coordinating centers to find local organizations that would benefit from additional funding.

Now, Gilead has marked the five-year anniversary of the initiative by holding an event in Nashville, Tennessee, and supporting a supplemental issue of Meharry Medical College’s Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. Meharry is one of the oldest and largest historically Black academic health science centers in the U.S.

The supplement looks at the impact of COMPASS, both through reports of activities supported by Gilead such as a paper subtitled “Collective Remembrance as Community Mobilization Among Black gay, Bisexual, and Queer Men,” and through papers that try to quantify the effects of the funding. 

One paper, titled "Evaluating the COMPASS Initiative," assesses the effect of the funding on the three goals of the program. The paper reports that the coordinating centers awarded $14.5 million across 16 states from 2018 to 2022. Partners leveraged their COMPASS experience to secure an additional $21.4 million from other sources, such as the government and private foundations.

The paper also looks at work to boost local leadership and change public perception in the South, finding that more than 3,000 people received training, coaching or technical assistance and that COMPASS and its collaborators reached 34 million individuals through social media. 

Gilead’s five-year COMPASS celebrations coincided with the release of financial results showing sales of its HIV products increased (PDF) by 11% to $8.8 billion over the first half of the year, driven by favorable pricing dynamics and higher demand. The company has been accused of “profiteering” in HIV.