Gilead Sciences recently rolled out an initiative aiming to tackle HIV prevention in the Black community by collaborating with R&B and soul artist Raheem DeVaughn to help raise awareness.

DeVaughn isn’t just a Grammy nominee, he also brands himself as a humanitarian and influencer, having founded the nonprofit LoveLife Foundation, which tackles a variety of issues — including HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and mental health.

It made sense, then, for him to partner with Gilead on its Setting the PACE (Prevention, Arts and Advocacy, Community, Education) initiative. 

The PACE initiative highlights glaring disparities in HIV, including that Black women account for 53% of new HIV diagnoses among women in the U.S., even though they only make up 14% of the nation’s female population.

DeVaughn told MM+M that he sees the partnership as an extension of the work he’s already been doing for HIV prevention through his foundation, with a particular focus on health equity.

“Here in the states, clearly, [the disparity] is something that needs to be addressed,” DeVaughn said. “With Gilead jumping in and doing what they’re doing, I just had to be part of this campaign. I feel right at home as a community partner.”

The Setting the PACE initiative involves Gilead investing $12.6 million in grant funding to 19 different organizations tackling health equity in the HIV landscape. 

The funding will go towards programs that provide “culturally-responsive” HIV care training, Gilead said, as well as employing members of the arts and media sectors to engage local communities and address stigma.

That’s where DeVaughn comes in. As a Grammy-nominated R&B and soul artist who has decades of performing experience, DeVaughn fits right into the effort to raise awareness.

The initial goal of the partnership was to reach some 35,000 women during a six-week, 18-city tour. DeVaughn said it’s likely the effort reached even more women than that original number, potentially close to 40,000.

“We got the information out to a lot of women — Black women in particular, which is my core audience,” DeVaughn explained. “It was amazing to do the meet and greets and after the show, get them to scan the QR code and have them get information.”

He acknowledged that the project was a learning experience — not just for them, but for him as well. 

“[I learned a lot] through some of the people I met during the tour who also work in the field of health equity — nurses and affiliates of Gilead, different partners in the city, and people who have personally been affected directly or indirectly by HIV and AIDS,” he said.

Among the educational efforts of the initiative, DeVaughn stressed the importance of getting tested, knowing your HIV/AIDS status and speaking to your primary care doctors about preventive measures like PrEP — or pre-exposure prophylaxis. 

Additionally, this effort could only be successful by encouraging your partner to do the same, DeVaughn noted. Sometimes, having what may be uncomfortable conversations about sexual history to break down stigma and improve health outcomes.

“A lot of times in life, we can be reactionary instead of proactive,” DeVaughn explained. “Gilead is moving and aligning with the community by sparking conversations that need to happen, and reminding us that HIV and AIDS is still out there.”

The ultimate goal of the campaign? Getting that high percentage of Black women being diagnosed with age to drop significantly. 

This is the latest example of Gilead recruiting an entertainer to head an HIV prevention campaign. Earlier in April, FX’s Pose star Jason Rodriguez hosted a ballroom dance class as part of a Gilead HIV prevention event.