Around the world, San Francisco is hailed as a leader in innovation. From the iconic companies born out of Silicon Valley to its rich history as a leader in the gay right’s movement, founding the Black Panther Party and striving for a living wage, the San Francisco Bay Area is the vanguard of American progress. On a recent to trip to Westfield mall in the heart of the city, I was standing on the corner of 4th and Mission when I noticed that the street lamps were adorned with red signs advertising the city’s annual AIDS walk as far as I could see. As a former Washington, D.C. resident, another city ravaged by the chronic infection, I was no …

Around the world, San Francisco is hailed as a leader in innovation. From the iconic companies born out of Silicon Valley to its rich history as a leader in the gay right’s movement, founding the Black Panther Party and striving for a living wage, the San Francisco Bay Area is the vanguard of American progress.

On a recent to trip to Westfield mall in the heart of the city, I was standing on the corner of 4th and Mission when I noticed that the street lamps were adorned with red signs advertising the city’s annual AIDS walk as far as I could see. As a former Washington, D.C. resident, another city ravaged by the chronic infection, I was no stranger to heavy advertising annual AIDS walks, however what I found peculiar, I dare say uncomfortable, were the faces I saw advertising San Francisco’s walk.

Unlike Washington, a historically black city with a sizable population of black people, San Francisco’s black population is a mere six percent, less than half the national average. In fact the city lost 20 percent of its black residents between 2000 and 2010, yet the faces on these posters, young and black, are the symbols of HIV/AIDS in The City by the Bay. I can’t help but notice the irony.

With the cost of living pushing many of the city’s black residents across the Bay to Oakland and neighboring communities in Alameda County, unfortunately rising HIV/AIDS infections are following. According to the Alameda County Comprehensive HIV Prevention Plan, from 2010 to 2012 87 percent of new infections for adults between 13 and 29 were people of color and 70 percent of of all new HIV cases in 2013 were people of color.

Funding for organizations with a mission of combating new infections and providing resources to those living with the virus like the Alta Bates Summit’s East Bay AIDS Center’s CRUSH project, funded by a $6 million state grant, and the AIDS Project of the East Bay pale in comparison to the whopping $29.9 million budget of San Francisco’s largest HIV/AIDS charity, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, $10.9 million of which came from the government.

Between 2006 and 2013 San Francisco celebrated a 30 percent decrease in new HIV cases and the SFAF began planning a $10 million wellness center for gay men in the Castro while minorities in neighboring Oakland and Alameda county are losing a battle against the ongoing epidemic.

Does the responsibility of the Bay’s largest HIV/AIDS organization end at the Embarcadero? How effective are outreach programs targeted at the city’s minorities, like Black Plus, Black Brother’s Esteem and Latino Programs, when the city is losing its black and brown residents at an alarming rate? Where are the tangible initiatives and resources, like the mobile testing vans that teach about PrEP and other forms of prevention in the East Bay like they are in the Castro? Does it make sense for the SFAF to shift their resources from targeting gay and bisexual men in the city to actively preventing new infections in the Bay’s hardest hit communities? Through partnerships with organizations like the East Bay AIDS Center, I believe the impact of these larger and more prosperous charities can be much greater.

I’m not asking for a large financial investment like a wellness center in the East Bay, but if they can allocate resources to fighting for California’s low-income residents by helping secure the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program funding and implementing the nation’s first National HIV/AIDS Strategy with the White House, then they are more than capable of funding things like on-site testing vans outside of a bar in Downtown Oakland every once in a while. Even using the existing support groups focused on men of color to equip them to become advocates for prevention in their respective communities could go a long way.

It isn’t a question of the effectiveness of organizations like the SFAF, their numbers speak for them, the challenge is extending a hand across the Bay to the make a difference in the lives of the people who have become the new face of this epidemic in San Francisco and its surrounding communities.

One day I hope to see more programs like those that have made San Francisco a success in the fight against HIV/AIDS go beyond the city’s borders and provide hope for those who need it most — not just those wealthy enough to reside in the city limits and those holding onto to their zip codes by a thread.

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Original link:  

Fighting San Francisco’s Hidden Inequality: The Distribution of HIV/AIDS Resources