Dr. Charles Garfield founded the Shanti Project in 1974 to provide emotional support for people with life-threatening illnesses
in the San Francisco Bay Area. The name "Shanti" comes from the Sanskrit word for "inner peace" or the "peace that passeth
understanding." The project's focus on one-to-one peer support provided by trained volunteers became a new standard in the
care of the terminally ill. Shanti's methods gained national attention, and after Garfield gave the keynote speech at n cancer
conference in Milan, Italy in 1979, Shanti began an international training effort. Soon nearly 300 organizations around the
world were using the Shanti peer support model.
In 1981, when the earliest cases of disease that became known as AIDS first appeared in San Francisco, Shanti added them to
their caseload. In 1982, Shanti's board elected Jim Geary as their Executive Director, and hired its first paid staff. That
same year, Shanti provided the first-ever international trainings on AIDS care (in Italy, France and the Netherlands). In
1984, Shanti, recognizing the exponential growth of the AIDS epidemic, changed its mission from serving individuals withany
terminal illness to providing services solely for those with AIDS and their loved ones.
Under Geary's guidance, Shanti quickly became a leader and a key component in San Francisco's community-based response to
AIDS, creating new programs and changing existing ones to match the needs of people with AIDS (PWAs). The goal was to help
them lead productive and independent lives out of hospitals and in their communities, and to reduce their healthcare costs.
In addition to peer counseling and practical assistance, such as housecleaning, childcare, shopping, cooking and running errands,
Shanti services expanded to include providing transportation, offering recreational and social activities and providing caregiver
support. Shanti also developed the first non-hospital residential facilities for displaced people with AIDS; by 1988 they
had 12 residences housing 47 PWAs.
In October 1988, Geary resigned, following six months of turmoil and amidst allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination
and favoritism that resulted in a San Francisco Human Rights Commission investigation of the organization. After a nationwide
search, author, teacher and activist Eric Rofes was hired as the new executive director in 1989. This move was viewed as inspiring
renewed confidence in the agency. Shanti broadened its focus, opening its first AIDS residence for families with children
and beginning a two-year agency-wide Multicultural Plan. In 1990, the first practical support training for the deaf and hard
of hearing was held. That same year, in collaboration with the Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, Shanti opened a home
for PWAs who needed 24-hour care. 1991 brought an influx of federal funds from the Ryan White CARE Bill and from the Crossings
program. The latter focused on the "historically underserved" residents of the Tenderloin, Mission, and South of Market areas
of the city. This program reached out to women, children, people of color, poor, homeless, intravenous and other drug users,
transvestites and transgender people.
There was another leadership and public relations crisis in 1993, when an annual review found discrepancies in the use of
government funds in Shanti's housing program. Rofes and deputy director Melinda Paras resigned. Paul Lambros served as interim
executive director until August of that year. Doug Holloway and Tim Wolfred assumed direction of day-to-day activities until
Gloria Sandoval was appointed Shanti executive director. After being barred for a year from receiving direct federal funding,
Shanti's January 1994 audit showed no misuse of funds and their federal status was reinstated. Shanti's housing program was
transferred to another agency, but all other contracts were extended. In 1994, Shanti joined with the AIDS Health Project
and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in a new formal collaboration, streamlining intake and making access to services provided
by all three agencies more efficient.
Between 1974 and 1994, its 20th anniversary year, Shanti trained over 7,000 volunteers who, cumulatively, provided over 2
million hours of peer counseling and practical assistance to PWAs and people with other terminal diseases. The organization
continued to offer new services, including an Activities Program, which included social, recreational and cultural opportunities
for men, women, and children with symptomatic HIV in San Francisco. These events provided a space for participants to make
friends with others who were dealing with similar issues, to enjoy activities they might not normally be able to afford, and
to explore new interests. The Activities Program included free tickets to arts, sports performance and educational events;
social events such as parties, picnics, bus trips, classes, outings; a newsletter and a telephone events line.
Sandoval served as Executive Director until 1997. She was succeeded by Bob Rybicki, who served for five years. In 1998, in
conjunction with activist Andrea Martin, Shanti established its LifeLines Breast Cancer Program, which offers support, education,
services and care to men and women with breast cancer. In early 2003, Hywel Sims joined Shanti as Executive Director; after
18 months in the position, he was succeeded by Kevin Burns. Burns had worked in a variety of capacities for Shanti since 1995
and, prior to joining the staff, he was a peer support volunteer.
As Shanti celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2004, one of its main initiatives was to expand its programs to new parts of
the country. The agency continues to share its 30-plus years of experience with other organizations nationwide. The Shanti
National Training Institute offers training and consultation to agencies trying to implement new, or improve existing, volunteer
programs for with clients with life-threatening illnesses. The organization continues to enhance the health and quality of
life of people living with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer in San Francisco by offering numerous services. L.I.F.E. (Learning Immune
Function Enhancement) Institute offers innovative health services to people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses
and conducts research on the role of psycho-social issues in disease. HIV/AIDS Services provides for the emotional and practical
needs of people living with the disease by linking people living with HIV/AIDS to medical care, substance abuse treatment
and volunteer caregivers. Volunteer Services gives people the opportunity to facilitate wellness classes and help Shanti clients.
As of 2007, Shanti employed close to 40 people, managed 200 volunteers and served over 2,000 people per year. It remains committed
to providing services for people of all racial, ethnic, sexual orientation and cultural backgrounds affected by HIV and other
life-threatening diseases, with sensitivity to preserving the rights and dignity of its clients and the HIV-affected community
at large. This organizational history was largely taken from the Guide to the Shanti Project records, 1982-1994, MSS 98-48
at the University of California, San Francisco, accessed through the Online Archive of California, August 11, 2007.