Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Advocates push for more HIV funds in SF


Members of the new HIV Community Planning Council were sworn in June 15. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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As San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee unveils steps to eliminate new HIV infections in the city, advocates are pushing for more funding for the initiative, known as Getting to Zero.

Lee announced last week the launch of a campaign meant to increase PrEP use, as well as the creation of the city's HIV Community Planning Council. The Bay Area Reporter previously covered the merger of the HIV Community Planning Council and the HIV Prevention Planning Council into the new body.

"To achieve our goal of reaching zero new HIV infections, we need aggressive strategies like promoting PrEP use," gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, who in 2015 announced that he was taking PrEP, said in a statement from Lee's office. "San Francisco has long been at the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS and we can lead the nation in ending this epidemic."

Health Director Barbara Garcia, a lesbian, stated, "PrEP is an important tool in our fight against new HIV infections. PrEP has revolutionized prevention, by providing a safe and effective way that people can take charge of their own health, without being dependent on a partner. With PrEP, people who are HIV-negative can stay that way."

But Dana Van Gorder, executive director of the San Francisco nonprofit Project Inform, recently told the B.A.R. that "several months ago," advocates presented Lee with a request for an additional $3.1 million for the Getting to Zero initiative.

The added funds would go toward PrEP retention and other activities. The money would be on top of the approximately $1.3 million the mayor committed last year. The New York-based MAC AIDS Fund also put in $500,000.

However, when Lee's budget was released this month, it included only $600,000 of the funds advocates are seeking, Van Gorder said. He said he and others are talking to city supervisors about adding the rest of the money. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

In response to an email asking about the $3.1 million request, Francis Tsang, a spokesman for the mayor, said the proposed budget for the fiscal years beginning in 2016 and 2017 "includes $2.5 million of continued funding for Getting to Zero efforts over the two years. This ongoing annual funding of $1.24 million funds the Getting to Zero initiative," which includes over 10 full-time health department employees and more than $500,000 of contracts for community-based contracts and UCSF.

Tsang added that the 2016 and 2017 budget "continues the mayor's commitment to HIV/AIDS support and services and adds $600,000 in grant funding for PrEP navigation, clinical services, and case management in neighborhood specific services in underserved communities. Further, the mayor's budget backfills $450,000 of federal cuts to HIV/AIDS funding" through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ryan White funds.

"Overall, over the last few years, Mayor Lee has made historic levels of funding available for HIV/AIDS care and prevention," Tsang said.

Wiener, who Van Gorder called "very helpful," said in an interview that he's working to get more money through the city's add-back process.

"I'm going to try to get as much as we can get," he said. "A budget process is always challenging. There are so many pushes and pulls on the amount of money we have. ... HIV care and prevention is an extremely high priority, so I'll be pushing to get as much of the $3.1 million as we can get."

Wiener said that "from the beginning," he's been part of the Getting to Zero coalition, a public-private partnership that includes the health department, service providers, and others.

"It is important for us to fund it so we can get it right," he said.

One of the organizations in the Getting to Zero coalition is the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Joe Hollendoner, who started in May as the nonprofit's new CEO, said he's "glad to see the mayor's commitment."

"We need to add resources if we're seriously going to get to zero, and I'm optimistic we'll have the necessary funds" to do the work, Hollendoner said.

According to Lee's office, there were 255 new cases of HIV, down from the 309 that were reported in 2014.

"That is a significant drop from 2,332 at the peak of the AIDS crisis in 1992," the mayor's office said.


'Our Sexual Revolution'

As the B.A.R. recently reported, spokespeople for Lee said that more than 6,000 city residents are on PrEP, but "more needs to be done," especially for groups who are most at risk, such as African-American and Latino gay and bi men, and transgender women.

With funding from the CDC, the city is launching a campaign called "Our Sexual Revolution" ( The campaign was set to start appearing last Wednesday in spots throughout the city including the Civic Center Muni station, and on buses, billboards, and social media.

Lee's office also noted the formation of the HIV Community Planning Council, which is the result of the recent merger of two panels tasked with determining San Francisco's priorities for fighting HIV and AIDS. The mayor, who last week swore in the new members, appoints the council's 44 members. About half of them are HIV service consumers. The council's members include community-based providers, health department representatives, and others. The group's work covers San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties.


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