AIDS Walk San Francisco and UC San Francisco have formed an unbreakable bond through the decades. 

The University – a trailblazer in HIV/AIDS care, prevention and research – has been involved in the storied event each year since its inception in 1987, often finishing among the top five fundraising teams. With its roots tracing back to 1864, UCSF is a San Francisco institution that has served the city and community for 160 years and counting. 

As the 2024 edition of AIDS Walk San Francisco gets underway in Golden Gate Park next month, that long-time partnership will grow even stronger. 

Sarah’s cause 

Last year, UCSF teams participating in AIDS Walk San Francisco raised more than $50,000 for programs and services that serve people living with HIV. 

The University’s fundraising success has been driven by passionate individuals like Sarah Gutin, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Nursing’s Department of Community Health Systems

Gutin has been close to HIV as a learner and researcher for many years, first joining the fight as a professional when she moved to South Africa in 2004 to begin her master’s degree in public health at the University of Cape Town. There, Gutin got involved in community-based projects serving people living with HIV and was part of prevention research – all while South Africa was dealing with the worst HIV epidemic in the world at the time. 

“2024 marks 20 years that I have been involved with HIV prevention and care research and projects. I wanted to commemorate this anniversary,” Gutin said. “It felt really important to take stock about where HIV/AIDS is now. I want to raise as much as I can for the walk and local organizations. That’s why I’ve set an ambitious fundraising goal this year.” 

three people in red costumes smile festively
Sarah Gutin, PhD, MPH, (middle) with her partner, Ben, and friend, Meritt, before AIDS Walk San Francisco in 2013. Photo by Sarah Gutin

“I want to raise as much as I can for the walk and local organizations.” 

Sarah Gutin, PhD, MPH, UCSF School of Nursing

Gutin’s passion for HIV prevention and care dates back to high school. 

That interest has followed her on a winding path that’s gone from her native New Jersey to the University of Michigan, South Africa and Uganda, UCSF, back to Michigan for her PhD degree and now a faculty position at UCSF. “It was UCSF that was really doing the cutting-edge HIV research,” Gutin said of what drew her to San Francisco. 

Some of that work at UCSF included Carol Dawson-Rose, PhD, RN, FAAN, and now the dean of the School of Nursing, as Gutin worked on her HIV prevention project in Mozambique, yet another connection to a continent struggling to address the needs of people living with HIV. 

Throughout her career, Gutin has found time to participate in and fundraise for AIDS Walk events across the country in places like Philadelphia, Detroit and San Francisco. In 2024, she’s set a personal fundraising goal of $6,000 on the School of Nursing team – a number that would almost double the money she’s raised over the years. 

“AIDS Walk gives us a chance to come together and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Gutin said. “Despite so many years of work, the stigma surrounding HIV is still there. We can come together and stand up to that stigma.” 

Gutin is currently working on research related to safer conception for HIV-affected couples. “In Uganda, we had been doing training for HIV community health workers and a woman living with HIV came up to me at the end of the training and she was tearful,” Gutin recalled. “She said, ‘I didn’t know I could get pregnant safely.’ I gave her a big hug. It’s moments like that that stay with you and are so meaningful. It’s the reason why I continue to do this work.” 

Team UCSF 

In all, UCSF’s faculty, staff and learners, as well as their families and friends, raised more than $90 million for programs and services to support people living with HIV over the years, with hundreds of thousands of dollars going to programs and services that benefit from AIDS Walk San Francisco. 

Money raised has helped launch several UCSF programs including a program aimed at care for aging HIV patients at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. There, the inpatient and outpatient services became known as a national model of care. 

This year, the UCSF AIDS Walk contingent is comprised of nine UCSF-affiliated teams that are racing to raise the most funds in a friendly competition. Dan Bernal, vice chancellor for community and government relations, is leading this year’s teams. “As a gay man and a long-term survivor of HIV, I’m particularly proud of UCSF’s long history of advocacy for the LGBTQIA+ community and those affected by HIV/AIDS,” he said during a recent UCSF town hall

Bernal has been living with HIV for more than 34 years after contracting the disease when he was 19. 

“It was a very isolating and frightening experience, particularly at a time when an HIV diagnosis was considered a death sentence,” he said of the early days of the epidemic. 

“I know that I would not be alive today without the leadership, hard work and courage of UCSF researchers, physicians and nurses in the earliest and darkest days of the epidemic,” he said. Bernal also credited local and state leaders involved in the effort, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, with whom he worked as chief of staff in her San Francisco district office before joining UCSF. 

The coalition of UCSF’s AIDS Walk teams include those led by long-time UCSF staffers who are team captains, including Robert Mansfield, Jen Dowd-Kim, Edgar Micua and Emily Huang with event support by regulars Joey Convento, Robert Kirkbride and others. The UCSF team that raises the most funds will win the coveted AIDS Walk Trophy, usually presented by UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, at an on-campus reception once all the funds are tallied in August. 

Anyone contributing at least $25 to a UCSF-affiliated team will get a limited-edition UCSF AIDS Walk T-shirt to pick up at the event. Free breakfast and lunch are included. 

AIDS Walk San Francisco 2024 is on Sunday, July 21 in Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park.


UCSF Teams at AIDS Walk San Francisco 

UCSF has set an overall goal to raise $75,000.
Among the teams raising money in a friendly competition are: 

group photo of UCSF AIDS walkers
UCSF faculty, staff and community members gather for AIDS Walk on Sunday, July 16, 2023, in San Francisco. Photo by Noah Berger