Last year marked a time of change and transition at SFAF. As we recognized 40 years of impact here in San Francisco, we continued to navigate the current realities of our economic, political, and social environment. Despite these complexities, we focused on responding to a new and unexpected public health emergency, pushed forward our life-saving harm reduction work, and built up a strong foundation to best serve our community.
Just a month and a half into the year, I joined SFAF as the agency’s first Black CEO–and the first in our 40-year history who is openly living with HIV. This is a profound moment in SFAF’s journey to close the gap between our organizational values and actions. Throughout this year, I’ve reflected on my own experiences as a Black gay man, a movement leader, and as someone living with HIV, as I’ve witnessed the incredible impact that SFAF has on the people we serve. My very arrival underscores SFAF’s commitment to long-term HIV survivors, the San Francisco Principles and its core philosophy – Nothing About Us, Without Us!
This year I have witnessed how we are supporting people in their greatest hour–or hours–of need. How our clinicians are delivering the news of an HIV diagnosis–and our teams are connecting people to resources, support, and care. How our programmatic scope is evolving and our services are becoming more accessible to our priority communities via the reach of our Black Health, Latinx Health, TransCare and Aging Services teams. How our counselors are compassionately supporting people who wish to change their relationships to drugs and alcohol and how our outreach workers are reversing overdoses, picking up thousands of syringes across the city, and saving lives.
Fighting for race equity in our quest for health justice remains at the forefront of our work, and will continue to be a top priority. This year, an unexpected public health emergency–mpox–emerged, and teams across the agency strategized on how to respond through a race equity framework. In the face of extreme vaccine shortages–where would our resources be directed? Who would our advertising campaigns reach? How could we ensure that Black and brown folx, people who speak Spanish, trans and non-binary folx, and people without easy access to traditional healthcare spaces be prioritized? I’m proud to say our mpox response centered our priority communities, in ways that were destigmatizing, compassionate, and affirming.
Many of you are aware of the challenges San Francisco is confronting around the overdose epidemic. Last year, we continued our lifesaving harm reduction and drug user health work, distributing thousands of doses of the overdose reversal medication naloxone, counseling thousands of people on overdose prevention and safer use, rolling out a new drug checking program, continuing to fight for safe consumption services, and so much more. We are proud to provide people who use drugs with the resources and support they need to best manage their health and prevent HIV, no matter their substance use goals or where they are in their journey with substances. And, we will continue this important work as long as it takes to end not only overdose-related death, but also stigma around drug use and those who choose to use substances.
You’ll read about other notable achievements throughout this report, but the last one I’ll highlight in this letter are the thoughtful changes we’ve made to the inner-workings of SFAF. We’ve recruited a diverse group of folks to our Board of Directors, have seeded and strengthened collaborations with important community-based organizations such as Rafiki Coalition, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, and LYRIC to expand our work via powerful strategic partnerships with organizations that have long relationships of trust and respect with our priority communities, and have revamped the structure of our organization with a renewed focus on our “People & Culture” team to focus on staff engagement, professional development, and race equity.
There is much to be thankful of, and much to look forward to in the coming years. Thank you for your generous support of San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Dr. Tyler TerMeer