Every day in San Francisco, approximately two people are newly infected with HIV. At San Francisco AIDS Foundation, this is unacceptable - we believe even a single new HIV infection is one too many. So as we mark the 30th year of AIDS, we are busy expanding our HIV prevention and care services to meet the needs of the city, and beyond, with a single goal: to break the back of the epidemic once and for all.
HIV Testing & More, Now on Mondays
Alarmingly, new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in the United States are on the rise - the only risk group for whom this is the case. According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major U.S. cities are living with HIV – and half of those who are positive do not know it.
On many mornings, you’ll find a line outside the door of Magnet before the Castro clinic even opens. To meet the increasing demand for free HIV testing and STI screening, our gay men’s community health center has now added another day of operation; it’s open on Mondays. That means there’s a reliable, culturally-appropriate place for people to receive services in the Castro six days a week. The clinic is also making more appointments available online through its website.
“There is clearly a need for the unique services that Magnet provides to gay and bisexual men in the Castro,” said Nurse Tim Ryan, clinical services manager at Magnet. “We’re excited to offer another day of service for our community, because ultimately it means people will be taking better care of their health.”
Focus on the African-American Community
Meanwhile, the African-American community in San Francisco continues to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Blacks make up slightly less than 7% of the city’s population, yet account for about 14% of all HIV/AIDS cases. Over the last decade, AIDS incidence rates among African-American men have been higher than that of any other racial or ethnic group.
That’s why we’re launching a new program to ensure proper HIV treatment and care is accessible to all San Franciscans, particularly in communities where people continue to slip through the cracks. We were recently awarded the contract to provide social services for the African-American Center of Excellence. In collaboration with San Francisco General Hospital and UCSF, the project assists 250 clients by linking them to primary medical care, as well as social work, psychiatry and pharmacy services. Each client is partnered with a skilled case manager to ensure seamless access to care.
“African-Americans experience a variety of social, community and individual barriers to accessing and staying engaged with quality medical care for their HIV disease,” said Jeffrey Leiphart, director of clinical services at San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Our program engages these individuals with culturally-competent outreach and medical case management services that lift them over the barriers and into sustained, quality medical care.”
Improving the System for Housing Assistance
For many people living with HIV in San Francisco, housing is one of their biggest unmet needs. Studies prove that when people are stably housed, they are much more likely to take their medications, see a doctor, and remain emotionally healthy. But far too often, in a city like ours where demand for affordable housing is great and inventory is limited, people’s names sit for years on the city’s waiting list to receive housing assistance. It’s a troubling reality that for years has vexed city officials and organizations like ours which believe stable housing is essential to keeping HIV at bay. Now, we’re working to change it.
San Francisco AIDS Foundation has recently hired a housing wait-list coordinator whose job in partnership with the city is to verify the status and contact information for everyone appearing on the housing subsidies list. Ultimately this will streamline the process.
“Since people can be on the list for many years, they often move locations and can be hard to find when an opportunity for assistance comes open,” said Bob Rybicki, vice president of programs at the foundation. “The goal is to make the list more accurate so we can get people the assistance they need as soon as it becomes available.”
Three decades into the epidemic, San Francisco AIDS Foundation is more committed than ever to stopping the spread of HIV and improving the lives of all people living with the disease. That’s why we are constantly evolving and enhancing our innovative programs that promote health and wellness for all. Progress is happening under our watch, but we will not rest until HIV is part of our past.
The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. A simple test can determine if you are infected with the virus.
Our diverse programs help thousands of people every year. From testing to prevention to care, our services assist communities where need is greatest.