SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Mayor London Breed and two city supervisors announced a $3 million increase in funding for the San Francisco Department of Public Health to support its goal of significantly decreasing new HIV infections and deaths.
New human immunodeficiency virus diagnoses in the city have declined to record low numbers: 131 diagnoses in 2020, compared with 168 the previous year, according to a press release from Breed’s office. However, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown led to a reduction in screening for sexually transmitted diseases in general, and so health officials are worried about cases going undetected and infections spreading. Just last week, KRON4 reported that HIV cases in older Californians increased 84.3% in the last decade.
San Francisco has long been considered a national model for addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“San Francisco’s storied history on HIV/AIDS includes groundbreaking public health and community-based social services strategies that have saved countless lives, slowed the rate of HIV transmission, and created a model for how our city and others have handled public health challenges — up to and including COVID-19,” Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents south of Market on the Board of Supervisors, stated in the press release. “As a person living with HIV, I’ve seen firsthand the difference our city and community-based partners can make, and I’m grateful to all of them. I’m thankful, too, for the partnership of Mayor Breed and Supervisor [Rafael] Mandelman in identifying these needed resources so all of us can continue our important work to fulfill the promise of San Francisco’s ambitious Getting to Zero initiative.”
Dorsey, the second member of the board in its history to be openly HIV-positive, was appointed by Breed to the position earlier this month.
The city’s Getting to Zero Initiative has the goal of reducing HIV transmission and related deaths by 90% before 2025. The city also aims to increase numbers of people with HIV who have achieved viral suppression — which is to say, people whose viral loads are undetectable due to anti-retroviral drugs. Currently, 75% of HIV-positive San Franciscans have achieved viral suppression, according to city data. The eventual goal is zero new cases, zero deaths and zero stigma, according to the city.
The initiative plans to reduce new HIV infections via expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis and anti-retroviral therapy, and retaining patients already in care.
“San Francisco’s excellent COVID-19 response diverted focus from other public health priorities, including HIV prevention and treatment, and it is time to redouble our commitment to Getting to Zero,” Supervisor Mandelman, who represents the Castro and Noe Valley neighborhoods on the Board of Supervisors, stated in the press release. “Thanks to the advocacy of long-term survivors and safety net providers, this funding will allow the city to sustain our existing HIV safety net while expanding services for underserved communities.”
Breed stated that “we have seen, especially during the COVID pandemic, how critical long-term investments in public health are for the well-being of our communities. This investment will allow us to keep moving in the right direction and strengthen our support for those living with HIV/AIDS.”
A similar plan on the federal level, Ending the HIV Epidemic, seeks to reduce HIV infections nationwide by 90% by 2030 through diagnosis, treatment, prevention and response.