Roma Guy, Diane Jones describe life in 1980's during HIV epidemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The groundbreaking series "When We Rise" features a diverse cast of characters, all of them based on people who live right here in the Bay Area.

Roma Guy and Diane Jones have been part of the women's movement their entire adult lives, most of which have been spent in San Francisco. They opened the Women's Building in the city's Mission District in 1979. It was the first of its kind, and the pair created a safe space to protect women from violence and to access health care and mental health services. Nearly four decades later it's still run by women.

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Roma and Diane met in Togo in the early 1970's while working for the Peace Corps. As you will see in "When We Rise," they went on to build a family. That family included many men stricken by HIV/AIDS.

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They had also crossed paths with Cleve Jones over the years. Jones is a life-long political activist whose life "When We Rise" is partially based on. After meeting Roma and Diane, Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black wanted to learn more about them.

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"Lance and others fell in love with our family," Roma said.

ABC 7 has spoken to Diane many times over the years - she was one of the first nurses to treat HIV patients at San Francisco General Hospital. She was there when they started the AIDS wards that became the model for the nation.

"When we opened the ward, it was a 12-bed ward that often in the first year, often times wasn't full, and we now have a 20-bed ward," Jones said.

She started at the hospital in 1982, hoping to work with women but ending up working with mostly men.

Many of the gay men who died in the wards had been abandoned by their families. Women from the Women's Building and nurses stepped in to fill the void. "And we were drawn to the care of those patients for the most part because we were either lesbians or gay men," Jones said.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

Click here for more stories on the ABC mini-series "When We Rise."
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