SF AIDS Foundation reflects on decades of service, Feinstein's contributions to cause at annual gala

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Monday, October 2, 2023
SF AIDS Foundation reflects on decades of service at annual gala
It has been a hard-fought battle against AIDS in San Francisco. Many at the annual SF AIDS Foundation Gala say more still needs to be done.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the San Francisco AIDS Foundation works towards zero new HIV infections, on Saturday they reflected back on decades of serving the community. The foundation held its 30th annual gala, Emceed by ABC7 Mornings Anchor Reggie Aqui.

One person who was top of mind for many -- Senator Dianne Feinstein, who led the charge at the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

It has been a hard-fought battle against AIDS in San Francisco. Many at the annual SF AIDS Foundation Gala say more still needs to be done.

"It seems like getting to zero infections with HIV is within reach, but in San Francisco, there is so much more to do," said Murtaza Nemat Ali, board member of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Though it's 30 years later, the mission is still as important as it was 30 years ago."

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Though the gala marked a milestone, many reflected on US Senator Dianne Feinstein's role in the fight against AIDS early on.

"We were the epicenter of the epidemic and really struggling to figure out who our champions would be," said SF AIDS Foundation CEO Tyler TerrMeer.

There would be many, but among them, some say, was then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

"In many different elected offices over time, Senator Feinstein worked to ensure they had the local funding needed or the federal funds necessary," TerrMeer said.

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That funding was crucial in keeping people alive says long-term survivor Paul Aguilar.

"There are 16,000 people living with HIV in San Francisco. Seventy-four percent of them are over the age of 50. I am one of those people."

Diagnosed in 1988, Aguilar says the funding Feinstein fought for allowed for the best medical care in the nation. And that transformed how people lived with the disease.

"It was about saving lives -- that was her focus. And we are grateful for all that she brought to San Francisco," Aguilar said.

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That doesn't mean Feinstein didn't have her critics. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who were honored the gala for their work, say they didn't always agree with Feinstein's polices.

"Well, we didn't always get along -- Senator Feinstein and us," said Sister Madeline. "We came to a mutual agreement that we were here to service the community in our ways."

The person who will replace Feinstein in the US Senate will be appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"I am sure the governor will make a very, very strong choice. I know he is being very thoughtful about it, and I am sure he will make a good decision," said California State Senator Scott Wiener.

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