Get to Know Ten Leaders Making Waves in the South

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2019
Contact: Kyle Murphy, (202) 876-2820,

Get to Know Ten Leaders Making Waves in the South

Community leaders are turning the tide in the Southern HIV epidemic

WASHINGTON, DC – Today AIDS United announced the second cohort of the Southern HIV Impact Fund Leadership Development Program aimed at better equipping ten leaders to respond to the challenges t¬hat HIV poses to the region and ensure the long-term sustainability of the leaders themselves, their organizations and our movement. With a focus on expanding professional networks and improving leaders’ skills, knowledge and resilience, the year-long program provides specialized support tailored to individual goals.

“A strong movement requires strong community leaders,” said Jesse Milan Jr, president & CEO of AIDS United. “That is why we are committed to investing in the personal and professional development of established and emerging leaders from the South. We look forward to working alongside them this year as they work to turn the tide of this epidemic in the region and ultimately our nation as a whole.”

Meant to expand opportunities for regional leaders to avail themselves of professional and peer networking and learning, the Fund’s leadership program offers cross-learning among leaders to build capacity in communities new to HIV work and bring new perspectives to established HIV programs. Selected leaders represent the HIV epidemic in the U.S. South, particularly those who are members of Black, Latinx, queer, and transgender communities; range in roles from Public Policy Director to HIV Services Manager; and span the gamut from new to seasoned professionals.

Graduates of the first-year cohort are already utilizing their leadership training to organize legal clinics and support services for immigrants in North Carolina, challenge discriminatory HIV criminal law in Florida, and start a new HIV prevention and support program in the Mississippi Delta. Additionally, over half of graduates are now in positions with increased responsibilities.

“The majority of HIV funding in the U.S. is directed towards treatment and prevention, with very little going to support capacity building, especially within the most impacted communities, which makes this investment in people of colorand LGBTQ leadership particularly critical,” concluded John Barnes, FCAA’s Executive Director. “The partners of this collaborative recognize the critical opportunity to leverage this funding specifically to cultivate and grow the skills of leaders at the center of the HIV response in the U.S. South, where the majority of new cases are located and where the public health infrastructure is perhaps the most neglected.”

The cohort consists of ten staff members from Southern HIV Impact Fund grantees. Each leader’s organization receives $6,000 to offset any staffing or other costs associated with participation in the cohort, as well as to support conference attendance, certifications, continuing professional education, and more. Leaders of the 2019 cohort are:

  • Dwain Bridges, Jr., Director of Operations & Finance, THRIVE SS Inc, Atlanta, GA
  • Cotrencla “Tren” Burkett, HOPWA Support Services Coordinator, AIDS Services Coalition, Jackson, MS
  • Joaquín Carcaño, Director of Community Organizing, Latino Commission on AIDS, Durham, NC
  • Giovanni De Stefano, Peer Support Navigator Lead, Western North Carolina AIDS Project, Asheville, NC
  • Sydney Duncan, Attorney, Birmingham AIDS Outreach, Birmingham, AL
  • Ernie W. Hoskins, Prevention Director, Project ACT, Knoxville, TN
  • Jon Harris Maurer, Public Policy Director, Equality Florida, Tallahassee, FL
  • Mandisa Moore-O’Neal, Litigation Director, Frontline Legal Services, New Orleans, LA
  • Korey Willis, Community Intervention Specialist, Abounding Prosperity, Dallas, TX.
  • Helen Zimba, HIV Services Manager, The Afiya Center, Dallas, TX

“In joining this leadership cohort, I realized that I don’t really get a lot of opportunities to stop and reflect on things I’ve done in the past or plan the work I’m currently doing and hope to do in the near future,” added Mandisa Moore-O’Neal, Litigation Director at Frontline Legal Services. “Having an opportunity to assess myself and my work is invaluable.”

“In this leadership development experience, I am looking forward to learning how to lead within this community,” concluded Kory Willis, Community Intervention Specialist at Abounding Prosperities in Dallas, TX. “I want to help people who are newly diagnosed and need guidance to access and navigate quality care, as well as help people who are negative stay negative. I’m dedicated to ending HIV in the South.” For more information about the program, please visit:


About the Southern HIV Impact Fund: The Southern HIV Impact Fund is a first-of-its-kind collaborative of the nation’s leading private and corporate funders of HIV-related programming. Convened by Funders Concerned About AIDS in 2017 to coordinate and expand philanthropic efforts in the U.S. South, the Southern HIV Impact Fund is managed by AIDS United and receives support from Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, ViiV Healthcare, Johnson and Johnson, the Levi Strauss Foundation, and a generous anonymous donor.