Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Giuliano works to take SFAF to 'next level'


Neil Giuliano is settling into his job as CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Just over a month since he started in the job, San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano said he's "really excited" about his new position and discussed upcoming events such as the AIDS LifeCycle. He also talked about how the agency is faring financially.

This is the first time Giuliano, who is openly gay, has led an HIV/AIDS agency, and he said it's an "honor" to join the foundation in its 29th year and help move SFAF toward "the next level of effectiveness and success" in its mission. Giuliano is HIV-negative.

That mission includes ending the HIV epidemic in San Francisco. Giuliano repeatedly referred to the foundation's three goals: reducing new HIV infections in the city by 50 percent, ensuring all of the city's residents know their HIV status, and making sure all San Franciscans living with HIV have access to proper care.

Giuliano, 54, joined SFAF in December, bringing a high profile to the city's largest HIV/AIDS service organization. He was mayor of Tempe, Arizona for 10 years, beginning in 1994. After that, he served as president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and was based in New York City.

He was asked about his political philosophy; while he was mayor, Giuliano was a Republican. He has since switched political parties and is now a Democrat.

"I went all the way, as my friends say," he laughed during an interview last week at SFAF's new offices on Market Street.

Like many others in the field, he's concerned about the state budget crisis. Among other moves, in January, Governor Jerry Brown proposed increasing the share of cost for clients in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which thousands of people rely on for lifesaving medications.

Giuliano said he's been meeting with staff from other organizations and SFAF has "a significant level of influence" to "help rethink some of the things the governor's proposing."

He's concerned that "if the co-pay issue is not resolved, people are just going to drop out" of ADAP, and while that might result in reduced expenses for ADAP, assisting those people could lead to increased costs in other programs.

"I think we're getting that message through," said Giuliano.

He said the importance of testing is one of the biggest messages that people need to hear. He said he's "not an alarmist," but "people have got to know their status." He noted SFAF would have "a lot of opportunity" in the coming months to get its message out.

June will bring the 10th anniversary of the AIDS LifeCycle, which the foundation operates with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. This year, Giuliano himself will be riding for the first time.

June 5, the day the 545-mile ride begins, is also the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. That was the day in 1981 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first reported on the disease that became known as AIDS.

The events could also present fundraising opportunities. SFAF, which has a budget of about $21.5 million, is faring better than many other nonprofit organizations, but it hasn't been immune to economic troubles.

Giuliano was also asked about the possibility that the San Francisco AIDS Walk, which the foundation runs, would consider increasing the grants it provides to local HIV/AIDS groups that participate. While he did not commit to the idea, he was open to exploring it. The AIDS Walk is a more grassroots event that allows people to sign up as late as the day of the walk. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that fundraiser, which will take place in July. Traditionally, SFAF provides grants to many local nonprofits that take part.

At SFAF, funds from individual contributions, corporations and foundations, and donated goods and services totaled about $3.8 million for 2008, but approximately $3.2 million for 2010. In addition, special events such as the LifeCycle brought in just over $12 million in 2008, but that decreased to about $9 million in 2010.

SFAF reduced expenses from $21.4 million in 2009 to $19 million in 2010. Giuliano's salary is $249,000.

Asked about the possibility of more cuts, Giuliano said it's an "opportune time" to look at expenses and programs. He said the foundation would begin planning for the 2011-12 budget in March.

"I'm new, and my eyes are not glossed over with anything," said Giuliano, who added, "It's always helpful to go in with your eyes wide open."

However, he said nothing jumped out at him as places where reductions could be made, and "There's no lack of participation in most of our programs."

Giuliano indicated fundraising plans haven't yet been set but said, "We have some ideas; some fun, unique ideas."

His getting acclimated to his new job has included a meeting with some SFAF clients.

"I felt really good and really happy that they seemed so comfortable with the staff," said Giuliano. He said the dignity and respect they reported being treated with "has not always been the case" in his 25 to 30 years of public work.

Casey Budesilich, 33, is a client, volunteer, and advisory board member at Magnet, which merged with SFAF in 2007. He expressed concern about "younger generations of people growing up and taking riskier behaviors because of the assumption that HIV/AIDS is a manageable disease on par with diabetes."

Budesilich, who is gay, said he hopes Giuliano will "support the foundation to continue to be innovative in facilitating program development that encourages communities to come together to be able to address these issues," in a way that goes beyond the testing model to helping bring communities together, like Magnet does.

Magnet, the gay health center in the Castro, happens to be one of SFAF's most popular programs. In 2010, the center had almost 10,000 clinical visits (some of them were repeats), with more than 4,200 HIV tests.

Other programs include Black Brothers Esteem, which brings together gay, bisexual, and same-gender-loving men to help them advocate for their health and the health of their community; Stonewall, for gay and bi speed users; housing and financial benefits; and syringe exchange services.



The foundation announced this week that it has appointed Jonathan Zimman, 56, as the new chief financial officer and controller.

Most recently, Zimman served as CFO of Posit Science, a leading developer of brain fitness software programs.

His salary at SFAF will be $165,000.

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