By Lance Toma, Chief Executive Officer
It is now 40 years since the first cases of HIV were acknowledged and reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over these 40 years, our country has lost over 700,000 lives to HIV. As of today, approximately 1.2 million people around the world are living with HIV and 13% of them have yet to know their status, while 35,000 people continue to become infected every year. I share these statistics because each number represents individuals that we knew and loved, that we know and love, our friends, our partners, our family members. I want us to remember and never forget. I also share this data because it is crystal clear that we have a lot of work to do.
The difference now compared to 40 years ago is the advancement of treatments and tools to end the HIV epidemic by keeping those folks living with HIV healthy and by preventing any and all new infections from occurring. However, we won’t get there unless EVERYONE has access to these treatments and tools – Trans communities, Black and Brown communities, API and Native communities, homeless communities, drug user communities, sex worker communities, immigrant communities. We won’t get there until the persistent and pervasive stigma that is still stubbornly attached to HIV is eradicated. These must be our goals and we can’t let up.
At San Francisco Community Health Center, we have been hammering away for over 30 years and building up and strengthening our arsenal of robust, comprehensive, and integrated services, including primary medical care, dental services, street medicine and outreach, substance use treatment, and mental health services. We continue to be on the front lines engaging our most vulnerable communities impacted by HIV.
Our Mayor London Breed recently spoke about us: “This incredible organization has been transforming lives by advancing health, wellness, and equity through their high quality health care services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not only stepped up to support those most impacted but they have also partnered with our Department of Public Health to spearhead COVID-19 response efforts in the Tenderloin. For decades, they have been at the forefront in our response to HIV and helping us achieve our goals of getting to zero new infections and providing health care and wraparound services to our Trans and LGBTQ community, communities of color, and our homeless residents. I want to thank the San Francisco Community Health Center for their work.”
We will not stop until we get the job done – and even then, we will be around for the next fight to ensure our communities get healthier and stronger and achieve the equity we deserve.
About San Francisco Community Health Center:
San Francisco Community Health Center is an LGBTQ and people of color community health center that believes everyone deserves to be healthy and offers the highest quality medical, dental, and behavioral health care. We foster resilience, belonging, and healing for all communities. To us, health care will always be grounded in social justice.
For more information regarding available sponsorships or to learn how San Francisco Community Health Center is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit https://sfcommunityhealth.org or call (415) 292-3400.