When I met Erin Allday, the journalist whose idea it was to start( reporting on long-term AIDS survivors which evolved in the documentary film, "Last Men Standing"), I was attending a working group requesting the city for funding to help us folks that never planned to live this long. Having been HIV+ since 1980, and from 1985 on being told repeatedly that I would die within two years, it was a bit of a shock to end up being “saved” by the cocktail in 1996 and realise that I would live to a ripe old age. I am grateful that some record of the people who experienced those times is being kept, and grateful for the many films on this subject. From Hollywood’s “MILK” with Sean Penn, to the documentaries of Cleve Jones (When We Rise), David Weismann (We Were Here and others) and many others, featuring the stories of the early AIDS years and the incredible response mounted in San Francisco by a small, dedicated group of men and women of all types to deal with those years and those incomprehensible events.
When I moved to San Francisco in August 1980 to take a job as Assistant Editor of Drummer Magazine, little did I know that I had arrived just in time to witness the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. I had wanted all my adult life to live in San Francisco. I craved the sense of freedom and liberation that has always been the hallmark of this great city. However, as this insidious virus began its unfettered rampage through our community, that sense of freedom and liberation turned in to abject terror and chaos. Along with thousands of others, I watched helpless and hopeless as the virus decimated our once thriving community. Between 1981 and 1989, every new friend I had made since moving to San Francisco died from AIDS. I stopped counting the dead on my 36th birthday, when the number hit 36. After eight years of seeing my friends seroconvert and die, I too was diagnosed with HIV in 1989.
Vince is a gay Chamorro (Pacific Islander) long-term HIV/AIDS survivor who believes in the power of community and has dedicated more than 30 years to HIV/AIDS activism and LGBTQ communities. He is passionate about bringing health care and social justice equity to people of every sexual identity, HIV status, gender, race and age. Vince recentrly stepped intothe Director of Aging Services during the Covid-19 pandemic. . He also co-chairs the HIV & Aging Work Group of the Mayor’s Long Term Care Coordinating Council. Vince has led a number of grassroots HIV advocacy organizations both in the U.S. and overseas. He was executive director of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS, founded the Pacific Island Jurisdiction AIDS Action Group, and served as a United Nations NGO delegate for the Asia Pacific.
Michael is a Bay Area native and moved to San Francisco in 1992. He has lived throughout California and Smedjebacken, Sweden, and was in San Francisco during the mid-80s as the AIDS crisis continued to peak. His background includes a major in psychology with an emphases on ethnic/minority cultural studies, women's studies, LGBTQ studies and social justice coursework. He is a certified Sexual Health educator and worked at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation through their Syringe Access Services program until late 2016. He was the first elected President for MPAHC in January 2015 and is currently serving his fourth term as a strong advocate for more housing for people living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco. In March 2016, he was elected to the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Community Land Trust and served one term as an advocate for quality of living standards and strategic infrastructure development as a Lessee representative until 2018. Michael currently chairs the Community Outreach Committee and co-chairs the Finance Committee for Marty's Place.
I am a fourth generation native San Franciscan. I was just 18 when the first CDC reports came out on June 5 1981 describing a mysterious disease killing gay men. Two months later my friends started dying. Seven years later I sero-converted. The doctor told me I had maybe five years to live and I thought well at least I'll die young and pretty and I won't have to watch my parents die. Well, this year (2020) I turned 57 and last Monday on Labor Day, I came home to find my father face down on the floor...dead. I've been dealing with death every single day for the past 40 years. ALL of us long-term survivors have been dealing with death every single day of our lives for the last 40 years. Whether its watching a friend wither away and die or wondering when it was going to be our turn. Death takes a toll. Living day to day with that kind of loss, that kind of grief and trauma, that intensity takes its toll. When you are the sole survivor of your entire social circle, it take sits toll. I have long-term survivor friends with severe depression and substance use issues because accessing what little mental health services are available is so difficult. I have friends who survived HIV only to develop cancer, liver, kidney and heart disease brought on by the very medications that saved us from HIV. And what is worse is that far too many of my peers have chosen suicide because they see no future in a society where they have been forgotten and nobody seems to care anymore. 40 years ago we were overlooked by the medical establishment, ignored by the government, and shunned by society. We will not allow that to happen again! We can’t, we may not get another chance.