Jeff Sheehy, first openly HIV positive SF Supervisor reflects on "When We Rise" mini-series

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When Mayor Ed Lee appointed Jeff Sheehy to fill a vacant seat on the Board of Supervisors, he made history that Sheehy never thought he'd survive to see.

"I didn't think I'd see 40. I thought for sure I was going to die at 10, 18, 50," said Sheehy.

RELATED: ABCs 'When We Rise' shows emotional journey of Bay Area activists

It has been a long journey for Sheehy who is originally from Texas. "Back then I had to butch it up so I didn't get beat up," said Sheehy.

As a young man in Austin, Sheehy watched AIDS kill his friends.

The ABC mini-series "When We Rise" introduces viewers to activist Cleve Jones as he created his signature project: The AIDS Memorial Quilt.

RELATED: 'When We Rise' mini-series creator talks with ABC7

Sheehy's major mark on the movement didn't make the mini-series, but it certainly shook up corporate America.

In the 90's Sheehy led a boycott against United Airlines after it and other carriers sued the city over domestic partner benefits.

"But we won. In 99 we won, the law was upheld," said Sheehy. It was a major political victory, but even today, there are reminders of so much loss.

Like at San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 86. It opened in 1983 as the country's first dedicated AIDS care facility.

"I hear the voices of those who have died, I hear the voices of my friends who have died," said Sheehy.

The same AIDS ward that saw a generation of young gay men never leave, is now celebrating the opening of one of the Nation's first Geriatric AIDS clinics.

60-percent of people living with HIV in San Francisco are now older than 50, including Jeff Sheehy.

"Will this young generation that looks at Twitter and Facebook as the way to communicate to organize actually recognize the real strength comes in all coming together? That marching means something? That personal contact means something? That building a community of resistance means something," said Sheehy.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy survived. He got the job, the husband and the daughter. Now he's waiting for the next Jeff, the next Cleve, when will they rise?

Watch the four-part miniseries Friday at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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