Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Men can soon Strut
into SFAF center

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano, left; James Loduca, vice president of philanthropy and public affairs; and Tim Patriarca, the executive director of Strut, descend the staircase to the second floor of the new facility. Photo: Rich Gerharter
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Gay and bisexual men will soon have a new health center in the Castro, which will be called Strut, San Francisco AIDS Foundation officials announced this week.

At the same time, SFAF, the city's largest AIDS-related nonprofit, has launched a new public campaign to raise $2.8 million for the 470 Castro Street facility, which it hopes to open in October after years of delay.

The organization has already raised $12.2 million for a total goal of $15 million for programmatic expansion and renovation costs for the center. The public campaign runs through December 2017.

SFAF officials gave the Bay Area Reporter a tour of Strut Monday, September 14.

The building, which had housed a video shop and office space, includes almost 15,000 square feet spread over three floors, with rooms for counseling, medical exams, and meetings, a lab and pharmacy, and large spaces with tables and chairs for people waiting for services and for community events.

The open layout includes a lot of flexible space and the front of the building consists largely of glass from top to bottom. A gas hearth will greet clients when they enter the building.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano walks through the sexual health services area on the second floor of the new Strut facility. Photo: Rick Gerharter

"Gay and bi men are worth it," SFAF CEO Neil Giuliano said of the new building. "Gay and bi men deserve a nice place where they can come without shame, without stigma."

Giuliano, who said the center's name reflects "pride" and "confidence," said the facility is meant to be "inviting."

The first floor consists mostly of staff workspaces.

What has been known as Magnet, popular for offering HIV tests, will now be called Sexual Health Services at Strut and will be on the second floor, which will also host art exhibits and community events, similar to what occurs now at Magnet. The new space is more than twice the size of the 4122 18th Street facility.

Tim Patriarca, SFAF's executive director for gay and bi men's health and wellness, who will oversee day-to-day operations at Strut, anticipates that in the first year there will be an increase of 25 to 40 percent in the number of clients coming for services that have been offered at Magnet.

Sexual health services will be the first program to relocate to the new site. Other services will make the move in the weeks after that.

The third floor will feature substance health services such as what's been available through Stonewall and community engagement and support programs that have been a part of the 50-Plus Network and other groups, including DREAAM, a program for young gay and bi African American men.

The third floor also features more multi-purpose space and has sliding doors that open up to a deck overlooking Castro Street.

Each floor will have a "concierge" at a reception area to "create a welcoming space" and answer questions, Patriarca said.

Throughout the building are laminate hardwood floors and multi-colored carpet. The latter reflects the nonprofit's efforts to save some money.

"The carpet is my favorite color, which is free," Giuliano quipped.

 

Market Street services will continue

Most of SFAF's administration and many of its services will continue to be housed at the agency's headquarters at 1035 Market Street.

James Loduca, SFAF vice president of philanthropy and public affairs, said programs related to services such as housing and syringe access, as well as Black Brothers Esteem, Latino Programs, and TransLife will remain at 1035 Market.

Help with pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis – known as PrEP and PEP, respectively – designed to help prevent HIV, will be offered at both facilities.

For some people used to getting help at the mid-Market Street space, the Castro may seem far away.

Giuliano said if someone wants to receive testing, counseling, PrEP, or similar services, "I don't think there's anything in those broad categories that someone cannot receive" at the Market Street site.

Patriarca said, "We do a lot of strategizing to make sure that no one is left behind."

Asked about whether some would question SFAF investing $15 million in the Castro, Giuliano said his agency "has always been driven by the data and driven by the evidence," and he said at least 90 percent of people in the city diagnosed with HIV are gay and bi men, "and that informs our work."

The Castro is still "the heart of the community for gay and bi men in San Francisco," he added.

Loduca said, "Ultimately, the impact of our work here is going to extend far beyond the confines of the Castro and San Francisco," as other agencies throughout the world will see their latest efforts as a model.

The nonprofit's board has contributed a total of $2 million toward Strut, which will have an annual operating budget of about $5 million.

 

Delayed opening

Strut will come online later than expected, and there's still no specific opening date for the center.

SFAF, which has a budget of about $29 million, announced in October 2012 that it would combine many of its free services including sexual health, substance use and mental health, and community engagement at the space. At the time, the nonprofit said it hoped to move into the building in October 2013.

One cause for delay had been making minor changes, such as increasing the height of some baseboards, for the center's licensing as a health facility.

Giuliano said that work's been completed, but the center still needs to be given final approval from state health department inspectors.

About 42 people will work at Strut.

SFAF has hired nurse practitioners and is bringing on at least two more people to help clients navigate insurance and benefits programs.

 

More help for mental health

The nonprofit also plans to provide more help for people with mental health issues. A full-time counselor has been hired and there are already nine clinical interns. Most of the interns are pursuing master's degrees in counseling, psychology, and similar fields.

"There are isolation issues and depression issues," in the gay men's community, noted Patriarca.

There has been a need for mental health services since the closure of New Leaf: Services for Our Community several years ago. The UCSF Alliance Health Project took on some of those duties, but last year that agency had a round of staff layoffs.

Some in the community are already praising Strut, which is part of SFAF's efforts to reduce the number of new HIV transmissions in San Francisco to zero as part of the Getting to Zero Coalition.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, said Strut is "an extremely positive project for the neighborhood. When you look at the success Magnet has had, expanding Magnet and combining it with prevention, substance abuse, mental health, and other health services makes all the sense in the world."

Tez Anderson, of the group Let's Kick ASS, which stands for AIDS Survivor Syndrome, said, "We've turned a corner in San Francisco, which is remarkably exciting."

Anderson, who said, "l lost a lover and more friends than I can even count" to AIDS, added, "I'm glad to see the change in the epidemic, and glad to see [SFAF] being part of that."

 

Naming rights

Throughout the new center, there are placards that describe the service offered and a "Your Name Here" line, intended to attract donors for naming opportunities. Virtually everything is up for a name, from the building itself to its grand staircase to the medical records room.

Loduca said the brand name Strut "is distinct from the philanthropic naming rights," so the center could still be named after an individual.

Giuliano, who recently announced that he's leaving SFAF in a couple months to become president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, a business organization focused on civic improvement initiatives, said "there still may be" a large donor who comes forward that will lend their name to the center.

There are also naming opportunities for major donors in programmatic areas.

For example, the 50-Plus Network is being renamed the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network after the late actress' AIDS foundation made a five-year pledge to support and secure naming rights to the seniors group.

Those interested in volunteering at Strut, for now, can go to www.magnetsf.org/about/volunteer.html.

SFAF is holding its annual Tribute fundraising gala Saturday, September 19 at the Exploratorium, Pier 15. The VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m. The gala reception starts at 7. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) will be honored at the event.

For ticket prices and other information, go to https://actnow.tofighthiv.org/site/Ticketing;jsessionid=0C07C7EB62245B8EA832AC4536A50AA5.app261b?view=Tickets&id=182581&utm_source=TributeEmail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=gc&s_src=email-gc&s_subsrc=purchasebutton.






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