In 1996, while serving as the mayor of Tempe, Arizona, Neil Giuliano came out publicly, becoming the first openly gay mayor of a city with more than 150,000 inhabitants in the history of the United States. After winning re-election three times, Giuliano retired to serve as the President of GLAAD, a position he held for four years. Giuliano now serves as the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
On June 2nd, Giuliano will join hundreds of men and women on the weeklong, 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The aim of the ride is to raise money for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Giuliano's goal for this year's race, his third, is to personally raise $25,000 for the aforementioned organizations.
Inspired by his commitment to LGBTQ activism, specifically the fight to end the spread of HIV, I reached out to Giuliano to discuss his work with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the people who have inspired him and what he hopes for the LGBTQ community.
CL: What are you up to these days?
NG: Whenever people ask me that question, I usually say something like, "I'm working to make San Francisco the first city in the U.S. to end the transmission of HIV." As the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, I lead an amazing and talented staff and we're making incredible progress toward that goal. We offer free programs and services for prevention, care and advocacy related to HIV/AIDS. We have more than 1,000 people in our individual, group and case management programs related to substance use, housing and general care.
Last year we conducted over 12,000 clinical visits for HIV and STI testing, treating nearly 5,000 STIs and providing more than 750 hepatitis vaccinations. We also lobbied in San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington, D.C. on issues related to HIV/AIDS health care delivery. Our community needle exchange program provided over 2.4 million clean syringes and we distributed more than 80,000 condoms. We also partnered with 13 other agencies in San Francisco while providing over $250,000 in grant funding to organizations involved with HIV/AIDS work.
CL: How is what you're doing making a difference in the LGBTQ community?
NG: I like to think that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation is making the community healthier and safer and encouraging the conversations we need to be having about HIV in 2013.
The tools do exist to defeat HIV and I believe San Francisco will be the first city to accomplish that task, but gay and bi men in particular need to understand that while HIV is now a manageable and chronic illness, it's still not something you want to acquire. In addition to health challenges, there are still a lot of unknowns about the impact of long-term drug therapies.
CL: What LGBTQ issue are you most passionate about?
NG: There isn't just one issue of concern for our community, they're all interconnected and important. The ultimate goal, of course, is full equality and inclusion.
CL: Can you name the one person whose contribution to the LGBTQ community has inspired you most?
NG: There are so many people in so many fields who have played a vital role in helping move our culture to one of full acceptance and inclusion and I'm in awe of so many of them.
David Mixner, Frank Kameny, Peter Staley and Vito Russo are all leaders and activists that I hold in great esteem. Reverend Gene Robinson speaks with a voice of clarity that's rare. Brian Bond and Chuck Wolfe have built an organization for openly gay elected and appointed officials that has done amazing work. Chely Wright has been courageous in using her voice to reach an entire genre of music lovers with messages of full equality. And, of course, Senator Tammy Baldwin is a trailblazer as well.
I also have to mention the early leaders of our movement from organizations large and small, including Joan Garry, Patrick Guerrero, Elizabeth Birch, Kevin Jennings, Matt Foreman, Lorri Jean and Urvashi Vaid, as well as people who provided early, smart and sustained funding such as Terry Bean, Tim Gill and Jon Stryker. They've all left a huge mark on our movement's advancement.
CL: If you had to recommend one book, movie or song with an LGBTQ bent, what would your recommendation be?
NG: It's true that culture leads and politics and laws follow, so we can't underestimate what shows like Will & Grace and movies like Brokeback Mountain did to create conversations that led to the changing of hearts and minds.
I would, of course, also have to recommend my own book, The Campaign Within: A Mayor's Private Journey to Public Leadership. I was the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. city with a population of more than 150,000 people back in 1996, which seems like forever ago, so today I'm very happy to see openly gay mayors in Houston, Lexington, Portland, Redondo Beach and soon-to-be New York City. It shows incredible progress and cultural change.
CL: What do you hope for the LGBTQ community?
NG: I hope that we'll be treated equally by our government and continue to make significant contributions to society both as individuals and as a diverse community.
Note: A link to this post appeared on Towleroad on March 21, 2013.