This article first appeared in the Bay Area Reporter on June 24th, 2016.
By Seth Hemmelgarn
Gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter today (Friday, June 24) that he’s secured another $2.5 million for the city’s Getting to Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate new HIV infections in the city.
Advocates had asked Mayor Ed Lee for $3.1 million to support the initiative, but Lee had included only $600,000 in the budget he proposed in June. The city’s fiscal year starts July 1.
In a text message to the B.A.R. today, Wiener said, “I was able to obtain the entire $2.5 million for Getting to Zero. In combination with the mayor’s $600,000, we fully funded the entire $3.1 million budget package. … We worked closely with the GTZ consortium” and HIV/AIDS Provider Network to ensure the money’s there, he said.
“We had to fight hard keep it intact,” Wiener said. Supervisor Mark Farrell, chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, “absolutely had the LGBT community’s back in helping us move this forward.”
The city has a two-year budget cycle. The $3.1 million is for the first year.
In a news release, Wiener said, “The Getting to Zero Consortium and HAPN have been working diligently over the last year to develop key initiatives to sustain San Francisco’s momentum in its effort to become the first place to achieve the UNAIDS goals of zero new HIV transmissions, zero HIV deaths, and zero stigma. While we had formulated a very strong and innovative plan to attain those goals, the funding to implement the plan was lacking. We have now addressed that lack of funding through the city budget.”
The $600,000 that Lee proposed is meant to expand access to PrEP in underserved communities throughout San Francisco.
In 2014, Wiener became the first elected official to disclose publicly that he takes PrEP.
“We want to thank Supervisor Wiener for his leadership in obtaining this $2.5 million investment – an investment that will save lives,” stated Lance Toma, HAPN co-chair and member of the GTZ Consortium steering committee. “We are also grateful to Mayor Lee and Supervisor Farrell for their support. These funds are critical for strengthening our citywide response to ensure people newly diagnosed with HIV get on life-saving medications within 48 hours and addressing HIV-related stigma.”
Toma, who’s also executive director of San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, added, “Even more critical, we will be able to expand our core medical and support services infrastructure to retain and re-engage those with the highest needs in care and on HIV treatment.”
Brett Andrews, executive director of Positive Resource Center, which provides services including benefits counseling for people living with HIV, said, “Retaining and re-engaging people with HIV in care is essential to maintaining their health and preventing deaths from HIV, one of the three Getting to Zero goals. We salute the vision and foresight of the board, most notably Supervisors Wiener and Farrell, in ensuring adequate funds are available to support our historic work. It can be very difficult at times to keep people with HIV in care. Many are confronted with a host of issues. In addition, keeping people in care saves the city money in the long run since typically patients off treatment spiral downward and often end up in the ER with full blown AIDS.”