The year 2021 brought many challenges for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and our community, as we navigated the second year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges showcased the significant resilience of our organization and our community, and have highlighted the critically important ways our agency and staff are able to respond in times of crisis.
Last year, we experienced a surge in demand for sexual health services, PrEP, and HIV testing at our Magnet clinic, after many community members postponed their normal schedule for care during the first year of the pandemic. Meeting this increase in demand, while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols and building out COVID-19 vaccine services became a focus for our clinical team. I am proud to report that our clinic has been able to safely remain open throughout the pandemic, ensuring that our community has access to HIV care, PrEP, sexual health care, gender-affirming care, and other essential health services.
As COVID-19 vaccines became available, we focused on reaching our communities of highest need: people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing in the SoMa/Tenderloin neighborhood, monolingual Spanish-speakers, BIPOC community members, long-term survivors, and transgender and non-binary folks. In collaboration with our Latinx Health program team, our Trans Care team, our Black Health team, and other community engagement staff, our clinical team provided priority vaccines and outreach to these communities.
Our substance use program The Stonewall Project and our community engagement programs innovated their models of care to provide virtual and telehealth delivery of one-on-one and group support. Investments in technology–for clients in addition to staff–have enabled us to reach clients and participants conveniently and safely during the pandemic. This year, we were also able to bring a limited number of in-person services to clients and community members, filling a significant need in the community for face-to-face harm reduction counseling, support services, and connection.
One of the most significant challenges we faced–and continue to face–is the overdose crisis. Last year, we lost more than 600 San Franciscans to drug overdose. Our harm reduction teams ramped up the delivery of overdose prevention education and resources, and created a new program for overdose prevention in shelter-in-place hotels. Our policy and advocacy team made strides in educating the community about the overdose crisis, and gathered support for the establishment of safe consumption services in San Francisco.
Thank you for your continued support as we enter a new year, and the fourth year of our five-year strategic plan. Although we have much to accomplish in the years ahead, we look forward with hope and optimism, as we welcome a new CEO at the helm. We are buoyed by the strength and devotion of our supporters, donors, volunteers, staff, board members, and event participants.
Kevin Rogers, interim CEO