Vision Community Foundation and Counter Narrative Project, both based in Atlanta, were among 29 organizations in 12 Southern states to receive $2.9 million in grants from pharmaceutical giant Gilead. The funding is for the company’s COMPASS Initiative, which fights HIV across the South.
Bishop O.C. Allen, Vision’s founder and CEO, said he was “humbled and excited” to receive the award.
“I was also reinvigorated and really motivated to continue to do the work we’ve been doing for many, many years,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “And that is to be a part of ending the HIV epidemic. That is our focus and our goal.”
Allen said the grant will help the foundation take its work “to the next level.” The agency provides HIV testing, education and prevention awareness throughout the city. The money will also help expand its Prevention from the Pulpit Initiative, which aims to reduce the disproportionate HIV rate among Black gay and bisexual people in the South.
“We train clergy and pastors throughout the South on HIV 101, on prevention and intervention tools, and how to address this particularly through a faith-based perspective,” Allen said.
“Our faith leaders need to be educated so that they can send the right messages and begin to address sexuality and theology and spirituality in ways that impact how people handle their health,” he added.
The foundation is the non-profit arm of the Vision Church of Atlanta, the Grant Park church Allen founded in 2005.
Charles Stephens, Counter Narrative Project’s founder and executive director, said he “could not be happier” about receiving the Gilead funding.
“The Counter Narrative Project is in excellent company among inspiring organizations across the region that are receiving support,” he said.
The money will help the agency expand efforts to end HIV criminalization, increase PrEP access and address racial justice.
“Since its founding, CNP has been committed to advancing a racial justice analysis in the HIV movement, one that examines how stigmatizing narratives have policy consequences,” Stephens said. “Our work seeks to shift narratives, to not only move hearts and minds, but to move the culture and influence policy.”
The $2.9 million in grants for organizations fighting HIV in the South is “an incredible opportunity,” according to Stephens.
“We believe that the South, and particularly Georgia, can not only be an inspiration for the national HIV justice movement, but a model,” he said. “This support will help us get closer to this vision.”
Emory helps select grant recipients
Gilead announced the awards in June. Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health was one of Gilead’s four coordinating centers that selected the 29 recipients of the COMPASS Initiative funding. Emory helped select 11 agencies, including Counter Narrative Project.
The Gilead initiative has impacted thousands of lives across the South, according to Kia Colbert, director of the Rollins School’s COMPASS Program.
“We are proud to kick off our 2021 grantee partnership to support organizations as they empower new leaders, reach members of their communities and improve their capacity to care for people living with or affected by HIV,” Colbert said in a press release.
Vision Community Foundation was one of five grant recipients selected by the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Wake Forest University School of Divinity and the Southern AIDS Coalition chose the other 13 groups. The coordinating centers will provide technical assistance, training and coaching for the organizations over the next 18 months.