Obituaries: Rama Selassie Barnwell

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday April 5, 2023
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Rama Selassie Barnwell
Rama Selassie Barnwell

December 30, 1948 — January 9, 2023

Rama was born in Florida, the son of a pastor. His family then relocated to Cleveland, Ohio.

Rama served in the U.S. Navy in San Diego, after which he received a degree in applied arts and criminal justice from San Diego State University. He moved to San Francisco in the 1980s during the early days of the AIDS epidemic and devoted himself to public health. He worked in the late 1980s at the UCSF AIDS Health Project as an HIV test counselor, providing support at a time when there was little hope for the thousands testing positive. In 1991, he earned a master's degree in public health from San Jose State University. He worked untiringly on his Ph.D. dissertation until his own HIV-related health issues came between him and his goals. Despite health issues, he continued as an HIV test counselor into the 2000s.

He returned to Ohio in the early 2000s to live with his sister, Audrey, who cared for him until his passing. Over the years, he talked of not expecting to survive long. Yet, he did and always with his beautiful spirit and love. He was a kind, deep, and gentle soul with a heart who touched many professionally and personally. He served and he is missed.

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