U.S. House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi was honored at UC San Francisco with the first ever Bay Area Global Health Alliance Leadership Award for championing policies supporting people living with AIDS/HIV throughout her career.
The Speaker Emerita received the award at an event on Oct. 30, 2023, hosted by the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences in collaboration with the Bay Area Global Health Alliance, Public Health Institute, San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In accepting the award, Pelosi recalled her first speech in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987, when she called for the country to take a leadership position in the AIDS crisis.
“My first words on the floor of the House were about HIV/AIDS. And people said, ‘Oh my gosh, why did you say that?’” said Pelosi, who felt the weight of responsibility from living in San Francisco, which was the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic. “I said, ‘I came to Congress to fight HIV/AIDS.’”
UCSF leaders lauded Pelosi for her influential voice and unwavering support for those fighting against the disease.
“On behalf of the entire UCSF community, it is my great honor to convey my heartfelt gratitude for your leadership in HIV and for our longstanding partnership to advance health care and biomedical research,” UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, said.
Hawgood acknowledged Pelosi for fighting early in her career to create the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program to provide assistance for low-income people with AIDS, and increasing funding for HIV prevention, care, treatment, and research.
As Speaker, he noted, she led the House of Representatives to reauthorize and expand the Ryan White CARE Act, the largest federally HIV/AIDS funded program, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease.
“Your tenacious support for HIV programs has improved the lives of millions of people living with HIV in the U.S. and worldwide,” Hawgood told Pelosi.
The San Francisco model is adopted worldwide
Eric Goosby, MD, director of UCSF’s Center for Global Health Delivery and Diplomacy and the founding director of the Ryan White CARE Act, recognized her effective leadership throughout the years in helping to bring San Francisco’s community-government-academic model of HIV care to the world.
“Ryan White was the resource motor that enabled the San Francisco model to take a step out of the city and begin to inform on a collegial level the response that a community could generate in and of itself when partnered with a city, a department of public health, and a university,” he said. “The triumvirate of community, department of public health in San Francisco, with a university purse string gave us an extraordinary motor.”
Diane Havlir, MD, an infectious disease specialist and director of the AIDS Research Institute, the overarching organization for HIV activities at UCSF, said it takes the political will of leaders like Pelosi to ensure that research gets translated into programs that can turn what was once a uniformly fatal disease into a chronic condition.
“We do not know when there will be no more new cases of HIV, no more preventable deaths due to HIV, and no stigma,” Havlir said. “But what I do know is one of the ways we can honor the extraordinary Nancy Pelosi legacy is to be inspired by her and recommit to change the course of this pandemic, our health-care system, and society for the better on this journey.”