December 1, 2023
WORLD AIDS DAY 2023: STATEMENT FROM THE AIDS COORDINATOR’S OFFICE
Today marks the 35th commemoration of this important day with the theme “World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit.” As we recognize this day, we are reminded of the lives taken too soon over many decades. We remember that there was a time when governments refused to act on behalf of their constituents who were suffering from an unknown illness, and that it was activism within and outside government that forced the government to act. The evolution to a time when governments have now embedded HIV prevention, education, treatment, and harm reduction services into their policies and budgets is a marker of success. However, we must remain vigilant and never take this for granted. As recently as the last few weeks, The House of Representatives considered eliminating funding for the national Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) - considered one of the most effective international programs ever implemented by the U.S. government.
Despite success in controlling HIV, the conditions for many people who lack access to stable housing, jobs, education, and consistent healthcare remain barriers that impact access to consistent HIV care, prevention, and harm reduction services. The actions of federal leaders were disheartening, but we are grateful that the City of Los Angeles has always been a beacon of hope and sets an example for others to follow by investing in HIV and Harm Reduction services.
An HIV diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it once was. There are now more, and better, treatments and tools than ever before, which will get us, one day, to zero new transmissions. Even as I highlight our successes, our work is still cut out for us. More young people, particularly young gay and bisexual men of color, continue to get infected at alarming rates, HIV stigma has yet to be fully addressed and ended, and although we are improving our HIV testing rates, we are still losing people at all stages of the HIV continuum, from prevention to care and treatment. We are moving forward, but we are still living with shortcomings in reaching those who need access to treatment, to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and other harm reduction services.
On this World AIDS Day we celebrate progress and our many successes, we highlight the work of our many community and governmental partners, and recommit to vigilance and activism in confronting the forces that would like to see us move backwards.
April 19, 2023
Statement on the Passing of Dr. Wilbert Jordan
Dr. Wilbert Jordan was a fierce advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County and beyond. On the front lines since he started the Oasis Clinic in Los Angeles, California, in 1979, his clinic treated some of the first patients who acquired HIV before the disease had even had a name. Over the next two decades, he would go on to treat more than 3,000 clinically diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients.
In his own words, he said “I treated my first patient in 1979, [but] I didn’t know what he had,” Jordan said. “And when the CDC report came out in 1981, I called him back and I told him, ‘I think I know what you have now.’” Early on, he was a champion of whole person care, and swiftly understood that people living with HIV of course needed medicine, but also needed much more and were in facing multiple competing issues that needed to be addressed: from stigma, food insecurity, insufficient housing, sexual violence, and psychological trauma. He built out services to meet all of the compounding issues impacting his patients…those who were left behind. In South Los Angeles, he established a medical clinic that would be an oasis for them.
He used his training to research the effects of early medications and how interpersonal relationships impacted the spread of HIV, and has been honored numerous times for his work in the field. We are better because of his legacy. He will never be forgotten and on his shoulders we stand.
February 15, 2023
Statement on the passing of City AIDS Coordinator Mary Lucey
The City AIDS Coordinator’s Office mourns the loss of one of our own. A member of ACT UP LA, founder of Women Alive, and first female City of Los Angeles AIDS Coordinator, Mary Lucey, referred to as “The Woman Warrior” In a 1991 Washington Post interview will be remembered for her dedication fighting for an end to HIV/AIDS. A formerly incarcerated bus driver and blacksmith, from Los Angeles, she fiercely dedicated her life to ensuring other HIV positive women got treated better than she, when she was pregnant and made aware of her diagnosis, left to fend for herself in a system not set up to care for her.
"A lot of women don't have the inner strength to fight," she said. "But I don't take no for an answer. So, I became an activist."
As the City AIDS Policy Analyst in 1996, she was part of the launching of the first intergovernmental AIDS Policy Committee, a convening of 40 leaders of city governments within the County of Los Angeles who aimed to pool resources and expertise to address the shared impact of HIV/AIDS within the county. She used tactics that confronted power outside of the system as part of ACT UP that carried on for the rest of her life. In 2002, she participated in a hunger strike to demand the lifting of federal prohibitions on the use of medical marijuana in the state of California. Yet at the same time, she worked within the government to ensure government responses had people like her in mind, and took her seat at the table to represent women like her in AIDS policy and planning.
"I don't believe in violence," she says. "But I believe in aggressive activism: banners, taking over offices with civil disobedience, testifying at state budget meetings, leaving paper trails.”
She co-created an oral history project of ACT UP/LA to capture this important history of the AIDS direct action movement from 1987-1997, launched on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2021. We have no doubt that her legacy will continue to be felt for generations to come.