AIDS United provides $25,000 to COVID-19 rapid response fund for Black and Brown transgender and gender-nonconforming communities

AIDS United first to give to a new initiative of the Transgender Strategy Center and Destination Tomorrow

WASHINGTON — AIDS United announced Friday its decision to provide $25,000 in seed money to the HIV COVID-19 rapid response fund of the Transgender Strategy Center and Destination Tomorrow.

The fund will offer general operating grants to transgender- and gender-nonconforming-led grassroots organizations who serve Black and Brown transgender and gender-nonconforming communities, many of whom are living with HIV.

“Black and brown transgender and gender non-conforming people have lived in a state of fear: threats of violence and death, loss of housing and stable employment, and inadequate access to gender-affirming health care,” said Aryah Lester, deputy director of the Transgender Strategy Center. “The current epidemic compounds these fears.”

Sean Coleman, executive director of Destination Tomorrow, added, “Historically, Black and Brown transgender and gender-nonconforming people have had to create innovate ways to take care of themselves and their community, making something out of nothing.”

Lester said it these smaller, grassroots, transgender-led agencies that “help the community navigate services and holistic health. This partnership fund looks to alleviate some of the stress put upon transgender leaders and community organizations, whose focus is on managing and preventing HIV in the hardest hit locales.”

The Transgender Strategy Center and Destination Tomorrow are looking to raise $1 million for this fund. AIDS United was the first organization to provide funding to reach that goal.

Coleman said the grants will provide “needed resources to those who have boots on the ground. Lifting up the voices of these Black and Brown transgender and gender-nonconforming leaders will allow for more authentic partnerships, thereby boosting community wellness.”

Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United, expressed thanks for the work of the Transgender Strategy Center and Destination Tomorrow, saying “AIDS United is proud to be the first donor to launch this important fund. We are grateful for how quickly these organizations have mobilized to raise national awareness of the critical need created by COVID-19 in transgender communities. I am grateful for the swift and decisive action of these leading organizations.”

Milan also called on other funders to join AIDS United in supporting this fund. “This fund is vitally needed in this moment. COVID-19 is already killing people and those people are disproportionately people of color. I hope other organizations will join AIDS United in helping the fund reach its $1 million goal.”

The COVID-19-related death rate among people of color is disproportionate to their population. For example, as of April 5, 2020, 70% of the COVID-19-deaths in Chicago were Black residents, despite only making up 29% of the city’s population.

“We know, through years of experience in working to end the HIV epidemic, there is no good reason why someone’s race, socioeconomic status or geographic location should affect their health outcomes,” Milan said. “But yet it does. Even though viruses do not discriminate, our health care system does.”

Similar disparities exist in HIV infection rates; 42% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 were among African Americans.

Milan continued, “As Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week, this pandemic has placed a spotlight on the failures of our health care system. Black and Brown transgender and gender-nonconforming communities have been left behind. We must do all we can to stop this from continuing.”

Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. He commented on health disparities in the African American community at Tuesday’s White House briefing.

AIDS UNITED: AIDS United’s mission is to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grantmaking, capacity building and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV-related policy for populations and communities most impacted by the U.S. epidemic. To date, our strategic grantmaking initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to, HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy. Learn more at

TRANSGENDER STRATEGY CENTER: The Transgender Strategy Center is a national and fully transgender-lead effort that is addressing gaps in leadership development, organizational support, and the development and piloting of transgender-driven programs. The Transgender Strategy Center is creating a scalable resource and strategic home for emerging and established transgender leaders across the U.S. Learn more at

DESTINATION TOMORROW: Destination Tomorrow is a grassroots agency that believes no one should have to leave their home or neighborhood in order to access transgender- and gender-nonconforming-affirming programs and services. Serving as the LGBT Center of the Bronx, while operating an emergency housing shelter for transgender and gender-nonconforming sex workers, and serving as an intermediary fund manager, Destination Tomorrow understands that the needs of the transgender and gender-nonconforming community are multifaceted. every changing and must be rooted in community building. Learn more at