Updated: Jun 19
by SF City and County and CA Office of AIDS
By EduardoMorales, Ph.D.
AGUILAS’ HIV/AIDS grants from the CA Office of AIDS and the AIDS Office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) ends on June 30, 2023. The AIDS Office of the SFDPH decided to fund only one agency for up to 1.5 million dollars per year for HIV/AIDS prevention services to Latinx LGBTQ+ persons. Meanwhile, the CA Office of AIDS through its Empowerment Initiative grants has not announced continued funding of this initiative that targets Latinx African American LGBTQ+ persons who are most impacted and overrepresented in the number of cases by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The end of HIV/AIDS services at AGUILAS is inevitable even though AGUILAS has provided HIV/AIDS prevention services for over 29 years since 1994 with excellent satisfaction ratings from participants despite meeting and exceeding its contractual obligations throughout over 29 years. Additionally, AGUILAS is the only agency SF city and county providing all its services in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Founded by Latinx LGBTQ+ persons in SF in 1991 and funded by SFDPH since April of 1994 AGUILAS as a grassroots organization is very active and engaged in the LGBTQ+ community and Latinx community. AGUILAS is a free standing 501c-c organization since August 5, 1999. It has a very dedicated and highly skilled staff and has helped thousands of Latinx LGBTQ+ persons throughout the over 29 years in providing HIV/AIDS prevention services. AGUILAS is doing this with the highest level of satisfaction from program participants while meeting or exceeding all contractual expectations throughout the its 29 years. About 40% of its current participants are HIV positive. Those who speak Portuguese are Brazilian and being served by AGUILAS. Additionally, AGUILAS assists those who are seeking political asylum by providing documentation of their program participation of whom 100% have successfully obtained their political asylum cases with their personal representative attorneys. Given the end of the grant period all the HIV/AIDS individual and group interventions and social events which are part of the funded prevention efforts will end on June 30, 2023.
The SF Board of Supervisors is having a public comment session about the SF budget at SF City Hall at 10:00AM on Monday, June 26, 2023. At that time the public will have a chance to provide a maximum of two minutes per person comments about the SF budget. The SF Board of Supervisors through an “add back” process can change the proposed budget of the city and county and decide to fund areas where there are gaps and needs. Once finalized the budget is approved by the SF Board of Supervisors and the new fiscal year starts July 1, 2023. It is hoped that persons will express their concerns, comment on the contributions of AGUILAS and advocate that AGUILAS be included in its new proposed budget.
Historically, AGUILAS is the only and oldest free standing Latinx LGBTQ+ organization in Northern California. Some important contributions besides providing HIV/AIDS services include organizing the candlelight march for the killing of transgender Gwen Araujo in 2002. Additionally, AGUILAS is the only Latinx agency that raised over $30,000 to build and construct the new SF LGBT Center. When the SF Board of supervisors set aside funding for creating a SF Pulse Memorial, AGUILAS was the only agency who voluntarily stepped up and take the lead for over 5 years to make sure the process for designing the memorial, constructing the memorial, and identify the location for the installation. Now SF has its Pulse Memorial located on the second floor of the SF LGBT Center. AGUILAS assisted in the formation of the cannabis club called Purple Star located 2520 Mission St that provided AGUILAS, SF LGBT Center, Shanti Project, and the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund with shared profits from its operations since its formation in 2013.
For every dollar the SFDPH provided AGUILAS in the past three years, AGUILAS was able to match dollar for dollar by acquiring funding from other external sources. AGUILAS will continue its leadership trainings called La Academia funded by ViiV Foundation for one more year. This does not include donations made by various organizations and individuals. Although AGUILAS will continue to find other sources of funding, the turn around time in acquiring grants necessitated the planning to end HIV/AIDS services unless the SF Board of Supervisors approves the “add back” funding for continuation of this much needed program. Given the increasing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation implemented throughout the U.S. and the immigration border issues by persons seeking asylum, AGUILAS is a resource critical for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community.