The San Francisco AIDS Foundation is one of the largest and oldest community-based AIDS service organizations in the United
States. The mission of the Foundation is to end the AIDS pandemic and the human suffering caused by HIV. The Foundation is
a major resource center that educates the public about how to prevent the transmission of HIV, helps individuals make informed
choices about AIDS-related concerns and protects the human rights of those affected by HIV. The Foundation provides necessary
client services for residents of San Francisco who are affected by HIV, and assists other organizations achieve related goals.
In April 1982, a group of GLBT community leaders, activists and physicians, including Marcus Conant, M.D. and Cleve Jones,
founded the Kaposi's Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation (KS Foundation). Their goal was to educate the public about
the new illness that was reaching epidemic proportions in the gay community and causing fear among gay men. Initially, the
KS Foundation was a volunteer-operated, single telephone information and referral hotline located in a tiny back room at 520
Castro Street. By the fall of 1982 it had moved into a small suite at 512 Castro and was becoming nationally recognized for
its up-to-date information about AIDS. The KS Foundation obtained its first contracts for educational services with the San
Francisco Department of Public Health and the state of California in late 1982 and early 1983. In 1983, the KS Foundation
produced its first educational materials and held many community forums.
As its reputation grew, an attempt was made to expand the local KS Foundation into a national organization. It was reorganized
as the AIDS/KS Foundation, Inc., with Phil Conway as National Director. Chapters formed in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San
Francisco. Rick Crane served as Director of the San Francisco branch. When the national organization faltered, the three California
chapters split off. The San Francisco office, which expanded to 8 paid staff and moved to larger offices on 10th street in
October of 1983, served 1,500 individuals and answered nearly 6,500 calls in 1983.
That same year, a holiday food drive generated a new service, a food bank for people with AIDS (PWAs). Cary Norsworthy became
the Food Bank's first coordinator. A year later, Norsworthy and the Foundation's food bank organized a Thanksgiving Dinner
for PWAs at the Valencia Rose, a gay-owned cabaret. This became an annual event. In 1990, the Foundation partnered with Project
Open Hand to deliver food to people with AIDS. After a year of joint operation, in July 1991, Project Open Hand assumed sole
administration of the AIDS Food Bank.
The Foundation's Client Services Department was also founded in 1983. The Department provides health counseling, support groups,
housing, client advocacy and referrals to people with HIV/AIDS. Specially focused services exist, or have existed, for women,
people of color and non-English speakers. Steve Pratt, the first head of Client Services, started in 1983 and left the next
year. Tristano Palermino succeeded, him, serving from 1984 to1986. In 1984, the Department served over 500 people; by the
next year, its clientele had tripled. Hank Tavera headed Client Services from 1986 through 1989. He also served as co-chair
of the Third World AIDS Advisory Task Force during much of this same period. Michael Lee replaced Tavera as Client Services
Director in 1990, and Catherine Maier was coordinator of Women's Services during the late1980s and early 1990s.
In early 1984, the AIDS/KS Foundation became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Jim Ferrels replaced Crane as director.
That same year, the Foundation's Education Department produced its first training video and safe sex poster and launched its
initial media campaign on AIDS awareness and prevention. The first head of the Foundation's Education Department was Mitch
Bart. Lyn Paleo replaced Bart and headed the department for a few years, along with long-time staff member, Chuck Frutchey.
In the early days of the Foundation, Paleo ran the state-funded Northern California Program (often referred to as NorCal).
Starting in 1984, she and her staff traveled throughout the region to give workshops and encourage the development of AIDS
services at the local level. As more local agencies opened, the need for the regional outreach diminished, and the NorCal
project ended in 1987. Paleo left the Foundatoin around 1988, and Frutchey was named Director of Education, a position he
retained until his retirement in 1994. Among all his other duties, Frutchey served as the unofficial historian of the Foundation.
He repeatedly rescued and protected Foundation materials; it is because of his diligence that many of the records in this
collection have survived.
In 1985, the growing Foundation moved to more spacious offices at 333 Valencia Street. That same year, Jim Ferrels resigned,
and Tim Wolfred replaced him as executive director. Wolfred managed the Foundation for five years, and the agency and its
programs grew rapidly. In 1987, needing more space, the Foundation's administrative offices moved again, to 25 Van Ness Avenue.
In 1988, as the epidemic began to spread at an alarming rate amongst people of color and women, the Foundation responded by
developing the Bilingual Multicultural Program and the Women's Services Program. These programs offered case management, benefits
counseling and support groups, among other services.
In 1989, a funding crisis resulted in extensive cutbacks in staff and programs. After guiding the Foundation through this
difficult financial period, Wolfred stepped down as executive director that same year. Pat Christen, who began as an assistant
in the education department and later moved up to Director of Public Policy, became the Foundation's fourth executive director.
In 1990 all the Foundation's programs were moved from Valencia Street to the Van Ness Avenue location in order to consolidate
services. The organization moved several more times in the Nineties to accommodate its growth and increase its efficiency.
By late 1995, the entire agency had relocated to 10 U.N. Plaza.
In 1994, the Foundation began its collaborations with the UC-San Francisco's AIDS Health Project and Shanti and started the
Housing Subsidy Program, which provided rental assistance to PWAs in the expensive San Francisco rental market. 1996 was a
busy year for the Foundation. The Treatment Education and Advocacy Department fought for fast-track approval and price reductions
of new HIV treatments; the Foundation's HIV Prevention Project, the largest needle exchange program in
the country, exchanged 2,000 needles; and Foundation outreach workers distributed more than 600,000 condoms through community
In 1997, the Foundation started several new campaigns and services, including an HIV prevention/harm reduction program for
hundreds of homeless youth and one-on-one consultations regarding treatment regimens. The latter included social programs
for women and forums on how to manage complex new HIV treatment regimens. A year later, the organization created a HIV Services
and Treatment Support Department and developed a new prevention program called "Gay Life," which took a holistic approach
to prevention. This was the first program of its kind in the nation. The Foundation also moved to a new location on Market
Street and consolidated all of its programs and services.
In 2001, in an attempt to address the needs of the nearly 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, the Foundation created
an organization to address the global pandemic, the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation. Over the next few years, the Pangaea Foundation
would collaborate with the William J. Clinton Foundation and several African governments to expand access and treatment to
care for people with HIV. In 2002, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation was forced to lay off staff to try to close a 2.5 million
budget gap. Despite these financial struggles, the Foundation staff ensured that client services remained operational.
In 2004, Executive Director Pat Christen resigned after 18 years of leadership. A year later, Mark Cloutier became the Foundation's
fifth executive director. In 2006, in response to the rising use of crystal meth, the Foundation implemented another innovative
harm reduction program, the peer-based Speed Project.
The Foundation continues to educate the public about HIV/AIDS. It has used three main strategies to promote education. The
first, the AIDS Hotline, was a de facto operation from the day the telephone was connected in the Castro office in 1983. Over
the years, its services have been used by hundreds of thousands of callers (in 1992 alone, the hotline answered over 100,000
calls, a remarkable feat for a completely volunteer-staffed service). In addition to English, the hotline offers services
in Spanish and Tagalog.
The second strategy employed by the Education Department is community outreach through forums, workshops and other events.
The third strategy uses individual educational campaigns that highligh a particular message or target a specific group. In
addition to targeting specific groups, such as intravenous drug users, young gay men or African American women, the Foundation
also uses educational and media campaigns designed to dispel the myth that AIDS only strikes white gay men.
The Foundation's educational outreach materials have included safe sex posters, pamphlets, videotapes and a coloring book.
The Education Department has also sponsored two publications. The first, Bulletin of Experimental Treatments for AIDS (BETA),
a technical journal focused on AIDS treatments, premiered in 1988. As of 2006, BETA was still an important source of information
on new treatments and therapies for HIV disease. The second publication, Positive News, a general educational newsletter,
debuted in English, Spanish, Filipino (Tagalog) and Chinese in 1991.
Other important offices at the Foundation include Media Services and Public Policy. The former was eventually subsumed under
the latter, which serves as the advocacy arm of the Foundation. It performs research and development for the local, state,
and federal government and private sectors, lobbies legislative bodies, fights discrimination against HIV positive people,
holds forums, issues press releases and responds to media requests.
This organizational history was largely taken from two sources: the Finding Aid to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF)
Records, 1982-1995, MSS 94-60 at the University of California, San Francisco, and "25 Years of an Epidemic: Milestones in
the Battle Against Aids," accessed through the Online Archive of California and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's website,
August 18, 2007.