Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

SF therapy clinic closes


The Immune Enhancement Project has closed. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn
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Immune Enhancement Project, a San Francisco clinic that provided low-cost massage, acupuncture, and other services to clients that included people living with HIV and AIDS, has closed after being evicted from its space.

In a Facebook exchange last week with the Bay Area Reporter, Debi Shargel, IEP's former clinical director, said that the clinic "lost its lease in September, and didn't have the capacity to fight or rally."

The clinic had run out of money, and "the board was mostly inactive," said Shargel.

"The board has not closed down the nonprofit status, and technically, they are considering reorganizing," she said.

Shargel, a licensed acupuncturist, added, "Without community support and folks stepping forward to be more active, a re-launch isn't likely."

However, she said, "I have continued to work with my active clients at the subsidized price they were paying, and hope to resurrect the [weekly] donation-based drop-in clinic as soon as I find inexpensive treatment space I can use."

Active clients were notified of IEP shutting down, said Shargel, but the clinic "didn't have the staffing or the finances to notify the thousands of former clients."

Just before the closure, she said, she was volunteering her time, and there was only a part-time receptionist.

There's nothing on IEP's website to reflect its status, but an October post on its Facebook page said that it had "closed down clinical operations" at its 3450 16th Street location.

Longtime local gay activist Michael Petrelis, who told the B.A.R. about IEP being shuttered, said the clinic, which was founded in 1993, "helped me and many other people with AIDS stay healthy and alive."

Petrelis, 58, who went to IEP for acupuncture and Reiki therapy over the years, said, "It was natural stress reduction." He last visited around November 2016.

The only place Petrelis knows of that offers free or low-cost acupuncture is a school in Potrero Hill.

IEP's most recently available tax documents, from 2014, list expenses for that year at about $108,000. Approximately half of that went to program costs, and half went to "management and general expenses," including almost $37,000 in employee compensation, the records say.

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