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ACT UP Stands Up To Antigay AIDS Foundation Ad

October 23, 2000

CONTACT: David Pasquarelli: (415) 637-4666 Michael Bellefountaine: (415) 864-6686

Two Arrested For Protesting Derogatory "Who Gives A Fuck" Campaign

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two members of the controversial protest group ACT UP were arrested at a lunchtime zap of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's (SFAF) Sixth Street headquarters. Veteran activists Ronnie Burk, 45, and Betty Best, 40, were charged with trespass, battery and disturbing the peace after they and others occupied the offices to decry an "obscene and abusive" SFAF ad that blames gay men for spreading HIV and berates the gay community for not caring about it.

At high noon, a dozen outraged ACT UP members swarmed into the Foundation demanding to see Executive Director Pat Christen. As the receptionist dialed 911, activists unfurled a blow-up of the offensive ad while others -- incensed that officials refused to come down and hear their concerns -- scattered fliers, knocked over baskets of condoms and emptied shelves of literature onto the floor. As police were enroute, ACT UP members Betty Best and Todd Swindell were grabbed and forcibly removed from the lobby by an irate Foundation employee. Both activists plan to file assault charges.

At 12:30 police arrived and ACT UP protesters complied with requests to leave the premises. Once outside, demonstrators formed a moving picket and chanted "Antigay ads make us burning mad!" and "Their HIV surge is a game. They get rich and we get blamed!" Others then affixed bright orange stickers reading "Antigay Lies" and "Trick or Treatment? AIDS Drugs Kill!" around SFAF's entrance.

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Activists say they are boiling mad over the pricy full-page, full-color ad placed in the October 19 Bay Area Reporter, the city's gay news weekly. ACT UP members allege the ad, entitled "HIV Infections Double: Who Gives a Fuck?" is fear propaganda that stigmatizes gay men as diseased transmitters of death which leads to homophobic violence. They say SFAF's new campaign is vile coming from straight management funded by the heterosexual corporate sector especially at a time when the agency is cutting services and raising executive salaries. In the end, ACT UP members charge that the derogatory ad replete with profanity (it features the word "fuck" a half-dozen times) is demeaning dialogue that would not be considered appropriate for any other community.

"As AIDS peters out, SFAF is acting more like an abusive antigay parent than a helpful ally," commented ACT UP activist Michael Bellefountaine. "Their ads attack our community for not blindly buying into some bogus HIV increase and their management's contempt for Queers is sickening."

Activists are quick to dismiss the ad's claim that HIV has doubled among gay men while dropping in all other groups. They point out that during the April 24, 2000 Ryan White CARE Council meeting, Department of Public Health (DPH) epidemiologist Willi McFarland stated that San Francisco's HIV rate was stable. Two months later, the gay community learned through a shocking front-page story in The San Francisco Chronicle that the city's estimated HIV rate had suddenly tripled to alarming "sub-Saharan African levels." Since then, DPH has backpedaled over exact numbers and refused to hold public meetings about the new HIV estimates that remain unverified by an independent body.

"We will not tolerate SFAF's blame game that presumes we 'don’t give a fuck' about DPH's phony AIDS scare," charged ACT UP's Ronnie Burk, who scandalized San Francisco in 1996 by dumping used kitty litter on Pat Christen's head to protest her $200,000 salary and cuts to Latino services. "SFAF wastes millions on paychecks, perks and profane propaganda while sending sick people to General Assistance and rat-infested roach hotels. Fat Cat Pat is a racist homophobe who belongs in jail."


Bay Area Reporter October 19, 2000

The New Epidemic: First in a Series San Francisco AIDS Foundation


Last year, the number of gay men in San Francisco who got HIV almost doubled. For the first time in almost fifteen years, the numbers are up.

Maybe it's no big surprise. Maybe you stopped worrying a long time ago. Or maybe you're thinking it doesn't matter any more. Either way, you've got to admit, it's a big shift.

And gay men are the only ones in San Francisco with the HIV rate on the rise. For everybody else, the numbers are still going down.


Minutes of the San Francisco Ryan White CARE Act Council April 24, 2000


SF DPH Epidemiology Report

Willi McFarland made a presentation entitled "Status of the HIV/AIDS Endemic in the HAART Era: San Francisco 1995-2000." The purpose was to characterize who is now living with AIDS, living with HIV, and newly infected with HIV in order to present an accurate current snapshot of the HIV crisis. The presentation gave information on how the era of new treatments has impacted the epidemiology of HIV.

The number of new infections has been remaining approximately the same each year. The peak of HIV infection was in the early 1980s, and the period from infection to AIDS diagnosis was then calculated to be about 10 years, therefore the peak of AIDS incidence figures was in the early 1990s.

He noted that the decline in AIDS incidence started in 1993, even before the time period identified by HAART. The number of new diagnoses is now leveling off at close to 500 per year.

Next, he noted deaths from AIDS reaching a plateau in the early 90s, followed by a drop in deaths from 1995 on. This corresponds with an increase in use of HAART, which went up sharply in '95. At least four to five years of survival time have been added as a result of using HAART. Whites have achieved these gains before African Americans and Latinos.

There are now greater numbers of San Francisco residents living with AIDS than at any prior point in the epidemic. Of the people with HIV, about half of them have an AIDS diagnosis and half do not. Therefore, the best way to get an estimate of the overall numbers of HIV infected people at this point in time is to double the numbers of diagnosed AIDS cases. That formula leads health planners to an estimate of 17,196 people living with HIV or AIDS in San Francisco; up from the 1997 figure of 15,000.

The epidemic here is overwhelmingly male, with 94%. He used maps of San Francisco to portray the distribution of cases by census tract for each population group and transmission category. Finally, he analyzed the statistics for HIV seroconversion by race/ethnicity, gender and transmission category. The highest rates of conversion now are for men who have sex with men and use injection drugs, for men age 25 to 35, and for Latinos using anonymous testing sites.

He presented the following conclusions: HIV/AIDS is endemic in San Francisco. That is, a balance exists among the factors of prevention, treatment, survival, behavior, immigration and other social/demographic factors. HIV/AIDS will persist in San Francisco's severely affected communities for some time to come. This dynamic balance may not last because there are indicators of increasing risk.

The studies show definite benefits from treatment. On the individual level, survival time continues to improve. On the community level, treatment probably suppresses transmission.

Brief questions and comments followed the presentation.


ACT UP San Francisco 1884 Market Street * San Francisco, CA 94102 Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 *

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