Back-to-HIV Rally and Die-In

Make HIV a priority again and address the impact of COVID on people with HIV—that’s the message that Bay Area activists and organizations want to send on March 21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when they will hold a back-to-HIV rally and die-on on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. For the past two years, funds and resources have been funneled toward COVID pandemic-related needs, but the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS have not been fully recognized and tended to as “a population with the greatest social need,” as stated in the prepared release.

Citing 2020 HIV Epidemiological Reports from the City & County of San Francisco Dept of Public Health, the activists point out that:

• HIV testing is down by 44% from 2019

• Rates of viral suppression have dropped from 75% to 70%

• Among homeless persons living with HIV, only 20% have reached viral suppression, a decrease from 50% in 2019

• PrEP use has decreased, leading to potential new HIV transmissions

• During times of lockdowns, clinic visits decreased, interrupting testing and early treatment

• San Francisco’s long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS still lack adequate access to deeply affordable housing, harm reduction, mental health care, social housing, and economic assistance

The organizers of the rally also call for more research to understand the complexity and breadth of the impact of living during two pandemics.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Monica Gandhi, Medical Director of SF General Hospital HIV Clinic, Ward 86. Recently interviewed by Hank Trout for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) website, she said, “I think the HIV treating community, i.e., healthcare workers, need to team up with activists, community, and patients like we did in the 80’s to again raise awareness that HIV is not over and that more resources and support should go towards HIV/AIDS. Our strength in HIV activism has always been researchers, clinicians, patients, advocates and activists working together. We need to do this again to ‘take back’ HIV as a major priority in our city.”

Other speakers will include Paul Aguilar, HIV Caucus, Harvey Milk LGBTQ+ Democratic Club, HAN; Harry Breaux, long-term survivor, Founding Member, The San Francisco Principles; Hulda Brown, long-term survivor, Shanti’s Honoring Our Experience; Vince Crisostomo, long-term survivor, Director of Aging Services, SFAF; John Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer, National AIDS Memorial; Nikos Pecoraro, Overdose Survivor/HIV Advocacy Network; Michael Rouppet, long-term survivor, housing advocate; and Liliana Talero, health educator, Shanti Project (speaking in Spanish).

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