Activists were set to rally in front of San Francisco City Hall on Monday, calling on city leaders to make HIV/AIDS a priority again after many living with the disease suffered during the pandemic.
The shelter in place early in the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of visits to clinics as well as early treatment and testing for HIV/AIDS patients, according to San Francisco's Department of Public Health.
Here are some numbers from DPH related to that impact:
- HIV testing dropped 44% between 2019 and 2021
- Rate of viral suppression dipped from 75% to 70%
- Rate of viral suppression among the homeless population plunged from 50% to 20%
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"This was a health department that used to be really focused on HIV," said Dr. Monica Ghandi, medical director at San Francisco General Hospital. "It’s essentially bringing back that attention to HIV and HIV outcomes in prep, in treatment, in retaining people in care. And getting our HIV outcomes better, especially in terms of virological suppression rates."
San Francisco's DPH released a statement:
"San Francisco’s successful COVID emergency response drew from lessons learned during our response to the HIV epidemic in the 1980’s and we remain deeply committed to San Franciscans living with HIV or at risk for infection. We are working diligently to reach our goal of zero HIV infections and HIV-related deaths in partnership with community-based organizations and large major health systems. HIV funding from federal, state, and local general funds has increased in the city in the past five years and HIV screenings have increased in the last year; we are almost reaching pre-pandemic levels."