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Pharma Company Pledges $100 Million to Fight HIV-AIDS in the South
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Local leaders in the fight against HIV-AIDS discuss the problem in MS
Mark Rigsby - MPB News

The battle against HIV and AIDS in southern states is getting a $100 million corporate boost. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, the money is intended to reach those fighting the epidemic on the local level.

One of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in the world, Gilead Sciences, is pledging $100 million to organizations combating HIV-AIDS in southern states. Kathy Garner is Executive Director of the AIDS Services Coalition in Hattiesburg.

"We literally began to cry. It's huge. We don't get to dream very often. What these kinds of monies do is give us hope and thoughts about how we can actually touch people that we haven't been able to touch."

Douglas Brooks is Senior Director for Community Engagement for Gilead, and the former AIDS Czar under President Obama. He says half of all new HIV cases, half of all people living with HIV, and half of all HIV-related deaths are in the south. It's the company's corporate responsibility, he says, to help.

"There is an unmet need in the southern U.S., here in Mississippi, here in Jackson, that's not related to medication, not related to our theraputics, but rather addresses the structural and cultural barriers."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 17 new HIV cases out of everyone 100,000 people in Mississippi in 2016. June Gipson is President and CEO of My Brothers Keeper and Open Arms Health Care Center in Jackson.

"If a person understands what to do with a condom, that's one thing, but if you don't love yourself enough to want to use the condom, it's not going to work."

Three universities in the south will distribute grants to local organizations. The 10-year effort is designed to focus on several areas, like mental health, stigma, and education.