SFAF Denies HIV Plunge;
Hires Ex-GLAAD ED as CEO
The item of most concern to me in the release on late Friday afternoon, the traditional time to dump either bad news or news that you don't want to get much attention, from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation announcing the hiring of a new chief executive officer relates to HIV infections.
SFAF's board president, Dr. Lorna Thornton, said of Neil Giuliano, the incoming CEO and his agenda:
“His distinguished track record of accomplishments in the public and non-profit sectors is outdone only by his vision for the future— a future when HIV infection rates plunge in San Francisco and, eventually, everywhere.”
For a good number of years, HIV rates in SF have been plummeting, to the point we're at endemic status, and the former CEO of the foundation, Mark Cloutier, said of the falling rates in 2007, according to the Bay Area Reporter:
"The HIV epidemic is over. Yes. The HIV epidemic in San Francisco is over," said Cloutier, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
Instead, Cloutier and other health officials now consider HIV to be endemic in the city, meaning it is a disease that persists in the community without substantially increasing or decreasing over time. [...]
An epidemic must drop down from its peak to reach endemic level, and that is the situation here. Yet, reading Friday's statement one might get the false impression that we've not had a serious reduction of new infections. At the same time, the national HIV infection rate has dramatically declined, according to a December 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Check out this graph from the CDC, indicating the U.S. HIV infection levels:
So why isn't the foundation heralding the HIV drops, and saying they hope to work with their new CEO to keep the rates down? I fear the answer may be that they are back to denying the good news about prevention, especially the poz community's self-created sexual health strategies, and don't want to acknowledge endemicity. The board chair should not be launching Giuliano's tenure under a cloud of denial about HIV declines.
Regarding Giuliano's hire, I'm worried about his lack of AIDS accomplishments on his resume. In addition to running a gay media lapdog, er, watchdog org, GLAAD, the foundation says of his experience and qualifications:
In 1994, Giuliano became the youngest person ever elected mayor of Tempe, Arizona, a post he held for a decade. For six of those years, Tempe (population 175,000), was the largest city in America with an openly gay mayor. He served on the board of directors of the National League of Cities, and in 2003, Tempe earned the “All-American City” award, a coveted honor bestowed on local governments demonstrating exceptional success in problem solving. Concurrent to his work as a public official, he held numerous senior roles at Arizona State University, including director of federal relations and co-chair of the final presidential debate of the 2004 election. [...]
Granted, an executive doesn't necessarily need a background in AIDS, or health care for that matter, to run an HIV services org. Management and stewardship skills must count more, right? It still would be better if Giuliano had a substantive public paper trail and record on HIV issues.
Let's remain optimistic that the foundation will soon provide fiscal transparency to Giuliano's hire, and inform the community of his full compensation package, number of years they have entered into a contract with him, and how much money was spent using the Boyden Global Executive Search firm to secure his services.
Finally, I hope Giuliano and the foundation soon announce open forums with the PWA community regarding changes in their advocacy and programming.