Gilead Sciences plans to advance quality of life for people living with HIV in Pakistan

Gilead Sciences announced the recipients of its 2019 Gilead Asia Pacific Rainbow Grant program, a regional grant initiative that supports community-led programs for people living with HIV in the Asia Pacific region. This was the first time non-governmental or advocacy organizations in Pakistan were invited to submit their applications for funding. Of the 15 submissions received from Pakistan three recipients, Youth Advocacy Council, NAZ Male Health Alliance (NAZ) and Youth Association for Development (YAD) received the grant.

Through this year’s program, Gilead is awarding a total of US$1.4 million to close to 40 projects across Asia Pacific. Of this over US $ 80,000 has been distributed across the three Pakistani recipients.

NAZ has received the grant to further efforts in their project ‘Naz initiative to combat PLHIV stigma & discrimination’ that intends to alleviate the social stigma and to diversify the workplace through more inclusive HR policies for PLHIV.

Youth Advocacy Council (YAC), Pakistan has received the grant to further their efforts in HIV/AIDs prevention and increasing access to healthcare for the transgender community in Pakistan through consultative services, peer support programs along with sensitization, prevention, and education workshops with relevant stakeholders.

Youth Association for Development (YAD) has received the grant to further efforts in their ‘Access to Quality Health and Life Program’ for people living with HIV/AIDS, youth, vulnerable population and people with high risk behaviours in district Quetta, Baluchistan.

Commenting on the grant, Dr. Qasim Iqbal (PhD), Executive Director, NAZ Pakistan said, “The stigma and discrimination faced by HIV positive persons in a country like Pakistan is real. As a gay man living with HIV, I strongly believe that we need to re-strategize the programming to combat HIV related stigma and discrimination because the programming and interventions implemented throughout the globe thus far have not worked. Therefore, we are grateful to Gilead for providing us the resources that will help us make life less stressful for the MSM and TGs living with HIV in Pakistan. We are excited about the potential impact we believe this project will make. With the generous funds from Gilead, we have planned to target the general population, employers and the youth.”

Mohsin Khan, Co-Founder and interim CEO of YAC Pakistan, commenting on the grant, said, “The transgender community in Pakistan is battling severe health and economic inequality. Beside social stigma, they are facing pressing health challenges, and are largely susceptible to HIV and AIDs and other diseases. This grant will really help us to implement our innovative and integrated initiative to combat transphobic stigma and address the health challenges that these communities are facing. We are overwhelmed by the support Gilead has provided, which will enable us to engage, educate and empower the transgender community, especially the youth, and work together against social and economic injustice while creating a vibrant and inclusive society in Pakistan.”

Atta ul Haq, Founder of YAD, said, “HIV/AIDS has become a disaster in Pakistan due to religious, customs, traditions, cultural taboo, bonded, barriers, hate, walls, stigma and discrimination by the society. The disease is spreading fast due to lack of access to services, guidance, treatment, testing, screening, counselling, and lack of information in Pakistan. There is dire need of time to consider HIV/AIDS as emergency in Pakistan.”

Started in 2018, the Gilead Asia Pacific Rainbow Grant program directly supports HIV-related community-led projects. The program is part of Gilead’s broader efforts to enhance public-private partnerships in the Asia Pacific region to address the challenges facing communities affected by HIV.

This year the ‘2019 Gilead Asia Pacific Rainbow Grant’ program is seeking to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV by focusing on three priority areas: 1) access and quality of life; 2) multidisciplinary care; and 3) diversity and inclusion. The Grant aims to accelerate progress on the “Fourth 90”, which complements the “90-90-90” global treatment goals established by UNAIDS to end HIV. These targets set the goal that by 2030, 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of people who know their HIV-positive status will be on treatment, and 90 percent of people on treatment will have a suppressed viral load. The Fourth 90 target aims to ensure that 90 percent of people living with HIV achieve a good health-related quality of life.

“For people living with HIV, the virus is one among myriad factors that contribute to their total health and well-being,” said Amy Flood, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Gilead Sciences, Inc. “The Asia Pacific Rainbow Grant program recognizes the need for a broader approach to helping people with HIV live well – one that goes beyond HIV suppression – and the central role of community-based organizations in helping to address the diverse challenges that can affect quality of life, including mental well-being and HIV-related discrimination.”

A total of 136 entries were received across the Asia Pacific region during the grant application window.

Gilead has expanded the grants program to 18 countries or territories in the region – nearly doubling the geographic scope from last year’s program. This is the first year Gilead has opened the grant to Pakistan.

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