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News Briefs: 2020 AIDS conference returns to Bay Area

by Cynthia Laird

SFAF CEO Joe Hollendoner. Photo: Rick Gerharter
SFAF CEO Joe Hollendoner. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

The International AIDS Society announced this week that it's 23rd annual International AIDS Conference will be held in San Francisco, in partnership with Oakland, in 2020.

The conference was last held in San Francisco in 1990, and it was met with unprecedented protests as activists pushed for effective treatments in an era when there were none. At the time, AIDS had killed nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. and there were an estimated 8 million people living with the disease worldwide.

This week, city leaders and AIDS advocates said they see the return of the conference to San Francisco as an "incredible opportunity."

"San Francisco will never forget the severity and magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic - we lost our friends, family members, and neighbors," Mayor Mark Farrell said in a statement released by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Our own San Francisco General Hospital was the first hospital in the country to open its doors to people living with AIDS and we have been fighting the epidemic ever since. The selection of San Francisco in partnership with Oakland to host the International AIDS Conference in 2020 is an incredible opportunity for the city to reflect on its history as we prepare for the future."

According to the IAS, the conference will take place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco July 6-10, 2020. It is expected to bring together more than 15,000 participants from around the world.

"AIDS 2020 will allow us to highlight the San Francisco model of care, and the incredible progress made toward ending the epidemic in the city where it began." Joe Hollendoner, SFAF CEO, said in a statement.

SFAF and San Francisco Travel led the committee that sought the conference, according to the foundation's release. They were joined by the office of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Alameda County Health Department, and UCSF.

Bay Area congressional representatives praised the conference returning to the Bay Area.

"San Francisco is an inseparable part of the story of HIV/AIDS," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. "It is fitting and deeply inspiring that advocates, researchers, and survivors will return to the Bay Area for the 2020 International AIDS Conference."

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who's co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, said the return of the conference to the Bay Area has long been a dream of hers.

"As early epicenters of the epidemic, none of us in San Francisco or Oakland were untouched by the devastating toll of the AIDS crisis," Lee stated. "In the years since, our cities have emerged as hubs of HIV/AIDS research, innovation, and activism."

The conference's return to the Bay Area is not without controversy. On Tuesday, AIDS activists and others announced that over 50 groups and numerous individuals had signed a letter to the IAS urging it to reconsider having the conference in San Francisco because of the current political climate under President Donald Trump. Local signatories include the Transgender Law Center, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, and the Drug Policy Alliance.

The timing of the conference coincides with San Francisco's Getting to Zero initiative, which seeks to reduce HIV transmissions, HIV-related deaths, and the stigma associated with the disease, by 90 percent before 2020.

Oakland LGBTQ center announces new tenants
The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, which in January suddenly found itself with a much larger space due to the eviction of the tenant it had paid rent to, has announced that therapists, arts programs, and others are moving in. Many are LGBTQ and all are LGBTQ-friendly.

Among the new tenants are Kin Folkz, founder of the Oakland Pride Creative Arts and Film Fest, who will operate the Spectrum Queer Media Arts Program, of which Folkz is CEO. The internationally recognized LGBTQIA rights, media, and creative arts advocacy organization promotes social justice, visibility, and a voice for marginalized LGBTQIA people and allies through community events, according to a news release.

The LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Center will also have an office at the center. Meghan Lewis, Ph.D., has specialized for over 20 years in queer conception support, fertility enhancement, pregnancy and birth options, and postpartum and early parenting adjustment. Lewis is a birth doula and former homebirth apprentice midwife.

Psychotherapists Lesley Sternin and Kip Williams will operate separate practices. Sternin is a licensed clinical social worker and was clinical supervisor at the Pacific Center for Human Growth for several years. Williams is a gay man who provides therapy for LGBTQ individuals, couples, families, and groups throughout the Bay Area.

Clinical psychologist Bree McDaniel will also provide services at the center. She currently works with adults, adolescents, children, couples, and families, with a focus on queer people of color.

Danny Ceballos, MBA, will operate Unleashed Consulting, which works with organizations to strengthen their effectiveness.

Urban Indigo, a ceramics studio owned by Cynthia Bragdon, will have a space at the community center, as will Tiha Baker, MS, LAPC, who will offer counseling services.

Joe Hawkins, executive director of the center, said other tenants will be announced soon.

The Oakland LGBTQ center is located at 3207 Lakeshore Avenue (entrance on Rand Avenue). For more information, visit

QLS offers intersex support group
Queer LifeSpace, a nonprofit counseling agency, has long had an intersex support group, and new members are welcome on an ongoing basis.

The group meets on Fridays at 12:15 p.m.

According to the Intersex Society of North America, "intersex" is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

The QLS support group drives each meeting's weekly conversation topic, and usually connects to claiming intersex as an identity wile processing the personal and public conflicts that come with it in today's society. It is currently facilitated by psychology trainee Ben Feldman.

For more information, prospective members can contact Feldman at or (415) 358-2000, ext. 432.

San Mateo Pride center has new hours
The San Mateo County Pride Center has announced that it is no longer open on Saturdays, unless special programming is scheduled.

The center remains open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Center officials also said the facility would be closed Friday, March 30.

In other news, the Peninsula LGBT community center has announced the return of "crafternoons" - afternoon crafting - every first and third Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. On March 21, participants will be crafting paper flowers to celebrate spring.

There is no cost to attend.

For more information about the center's programs, visit or email The center is located at 1021 South El Camino Real in San Mateo.

Off-leash dog park opening
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will hold a grand opening at its new Balboa Park off-leash dog play area Thursday, March 22, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The park is located off of Havelock Street, just behind the Balboa Pool (1878 San Jose Avenue).

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who represents the neighborhood, will be on hand, along with other community leaders.

Trans visibility event at Openhouse
Openhouse, the LGBT senior agency, will have its Transgender Day of Visibility luncheon Thursday, March 29, at noon at the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center, 65 Laguna Street in San Francisco.

Trans Day of Visibility aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of trans people around the globe while fighting transphobia.

Those interested in attending the lunch should RSVP to Michelle at (415) 728-0195 or


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