In 1987, activists Chris Brownlie, Michael Weinstein, Sharon Raphael, PhD, Mina Meyer, MA, and other advocates were among the earliest champions of the AIDS hospice movement as co-founders of the Los Angeles AIDS Hospice Committee, the catalyst organization which gave rise to the AIDS Hospice Foundation and, ultimately, to today’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
As members of the inaugural AIDS Hospice Committee, Brownlie, Weinstein, Myer, Raphael, Paul Coleman and others were involved with the planning and negotiations for the opening of Chris Brownlie Hospice on the grounds of the Barlow Respiratory Hospital. In those early years, following an emotional plea for hospice care to the Los Angeles County Commission on AIDS and a protest and picketing of then-Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s home, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors eventually committed $2 million to AIDS care. The group began converting a facility in Elysian Park that had been Barlow’s old nursing quarters into Chris Brownlie Hospice—the County’s first AIDS hospice—which was named in Brownlie’s honor when it first opened December 26, 1988. Meyer, who also served as Treasurer of the AIDS Hospice Committee, was honored in 1987 by the Los Angeles AIDS Hospice Committee with its ‘Heart of Gold Award’ for her early work in the effort to formulate AIDS hospice care in Los Angeles.
The 25-bed hospice—the first of three operated by AHF, including the Carl Bean House and Linn House, which opened in 1992 and 1995, respectively—provided 24-hour medical and palliative care to people living through the final stages of AIDS. Brownlie died at the age of 39, on November 26, 1989, less than a year after the hospice named in his honor first opened, survived by his father, sister, brothers, his longtime partner, Phil Wilson and countless friends and fellow AIDS activists. In addition to Brownlie, over 1,000 people had been given dignified, specialized, compassionate final care at the Chris Brownlie Hospice by the time it ended hospice operations in September 1996. The building that housed the Brownlie Hospice went through its own rebirths, housing various departments of AHF, including the headquarters for AHF’s Public Health Division, before the organization officially turned the property back over to the City of Los Angeles with a sunset memorial ceremony on Saturday, January 26, 2013.
With the advent of lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment in 1995-1996, an HIV-positive diagnosis signified a change in one’s life, not the end of it. As medical opportunities for managing HIV became more available, AHF changed its mission from providing compassionate care to people dying from HIV/AIDS to helping them live well with the disease through advanced medical care. This philosophical shift was marked with the change of the Foundation’s name to AIDS Healthcare Foundation in July 1990. The new focus on healthcare led to the founding of AHF Healthcare Centers, Wellness Centers, and the Positive Healthcare Network, the nation’s first capitated managed care program for people living with HIV.
Today AHF is the largest AIDS service organization in the world, claiming to provide medical care and services to more than 600,000 individuals in 15 states and 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific region and Eastern Europe.
AHF operates the Out of the Closet thrift store chain. AHF acquired the MOMS Pharmacy chain of pharmacies in 2012, and in 2013, rebranded the chain as AHF Pharmacy.
AHF sponsored HIV awareness themed Rose Parade floats in 2012 and 2013, each winning the Queen's Trophy for best use of roses.
AHF produced the documentary film Keep The Promise: The Global Fight Against AIDS, depicting the AHF sponsored protest of government anti-HIV funding levels and anti-HIV drug prices at the XIX International AIDS Conference, 2012. The film premiered March 29, 2013 at the Vail Film Festival.
At a Washington, DC press conference in February 2002, AHF President Michael Weinstein addressed exorbitant drug prices by GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company (GSK). AHF filed suit against GSK in July in a Los Angeles federal court to protest antitrust and patent violations regarding GSK's antiviral drugs AZT, 3TC and Ziagen. AHF amended its lawsuit against GSK in November 2002 to include a request that the drug company's patents be invalidated so U.S. residents can take advantage of cheaper, generic versions. In February 2003, GSK cuts the cost of Trizivir and Combivir in developing countries by as much as 90 percent.
In February 2004, AHF filed an antitrust and restraint of trade lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories concerning its drug prices and policies on its key AIDS drug, Norvir (ritonavir) and its subsequent derivative drug, Kaletra. In December 2003, Abbott announced an unprecedented 400% price hike for Norvir, while leaving the price of Kaletra—which has Norvir as a significant component—unchanged.
In August 2005, AHF criticized drug manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim for pricing its latest AIDS drug Aptivus (tipranavir), at $13,000 a year, the highest price for a protease inhibitor of its time.
In November 2006, AHF asked Indian anti-HIV drug manufacturer Cipla to reduce the price of its combination drug Viraday from its launch price of about Rs 62,000 per year. Cipla CEO Y. K. Hamied cited taxes and custom duties on raw materials as reasons for the high price, but agreed to a price cut.
In January 2007, AHF filed suit in Los Angeles over Pfizer's direct to consumer marketing of Viagra, accusing Pfizer of promoting off-label, recreational use of Viagra, and suggesting a link between Viagra, methamphetamine, and unsafe sex. Pfizer denied AHF's claims, and mentioned that AHF had recently asked Pfizer to fund a meth educational program.
In August 2007, AHF began purchasing full-page ads in Indian newspapers accusing Cipla of overpricing. According to AHF, a year's worth of Viraday cost Rs 54,000 when sold in India, but only Rs 21,000 when exported to Africa. Some NGOs declined to join AHF in criticizing Cipla's drug prices, citing a potential conflict of interest: Cipla's opposition to the patent application for Viread, a component of Viraday, filed by AHF contributor Gilead Sciences. Gilead denied involvement in AHF's complaint, and an AHF regional chief stated that AHF also opposed Gilead's patent application for Viread. After months of AHF campaigning against Cipla, the company is brought under investigation by the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission (MRTPC) and moves to reduce the price of Viraday and Efavir in India by 15%.
In March 2008, AHF petitioned drug manufacturers including Abbot, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, GSK, Merck, Pfizer, Roche and Tibotec to freeze the price of their HIV drugs in the U.S, stating that as a result of regular drug price increases “HIV/AIDS assistance programs will essentially be flat funded and unable to provide access to additional people in need of lifesaving drugs.” In June, the organization applauded decisions by Boehringer Ingelheim and Gilead Sciences to freeze prices on antiretroviral medications purchased by government agencies.
In September 2013, AHF filed a lawsuit in California against GSK alleging that the company “…failed to fully satisfy its obligations with respect to discounts for drugs it sold to AIDS Healthcare Foundation over a period of many years,” under the 340B Drug Pricing Program, a federal drug discount program designed to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible for community healthcare providers such as AHF.
Drug pricing advocates affiliated with AHF announced in August 2015 that they collected enough signatures of registered California voters—378,931 signatures as of August 16—to qualify the California Drug Price Relief Act, a statewide 2016 ballot initiative that would revise California law to require state programs to pay no more for prescription medications than the prices negotiated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (notwithstanding any other provision of law and insofar as permissible under federal law).
On August 3, 2015, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine approved petition language for a drug pricing 2016 statewide ballot initiative to enact Section 194.01 of the Ohio Revised Code to seek United States Department of Veterans Affairs prescription drug pricing for state programs. On August 13, the Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed statute as a single issue. As a result, that measure, backed by AHF and Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, was cleared for signature gathering to begin collecting the 91,677 signatures of registered Ohio voters required to put the issue before the Ohio General Assembly.
According to the Ohio petition language, “The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act would to require that notwithstanding any other provision of law and in so far as permissible under federal law, the State of Ohio shall not enter into any agreement for the purchase of prescription drugs or agree to pay, directly or indirectly, for prescription drugs, including where the state is the ultimate payer, unless the net cost is the same or less than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”
AHF currently serves 600,407 people in 36 countries through global clinics offering HIV testing, antiretroviral and other HIV/AIDS prevention, and treatment services.
South Africa was home to AHF’s first treatment center outside of the U.S. with the establishment of the Ithembalabantu (People’s Hope) clinic in the Durban township of Umlazi in 2002 through a partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health. A second site was opened in 2008 in Middledrift, Easter Cape Province. Through these sites, AHF South Africa offers comprehensive HIV and tuberculosis (TB) testing, treatment and care. Nationwide services include antiretroviral medication, CD4 testing, lab monitoring, treatment of opportunistic infections, on-site pharmacy services, distribution of free condoms to the public, and community outreach programs to test the population for HIV and link those who test positive into care.
AHF operates a total of 34 clinics in the Durban and Eastern Cape provinces, and in May 2014 AHF broke ground on K Clinic, the first South African AHF clinic to be built from the ground up.
AHF's other worldwide clinics span Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the U.S., and Latin America.
Each year on December 1, AHF celebrates World AIDS Day with a series of international events. In 2014, AHF hosted over 160 World AIDS Day events in twenty-eight countries, including the U.S., to promote testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS. International events promoted AHF’s 20X20 campaign, a global initiative to have 20 million people living with HIV linked to medical care and on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) by December 31, 2020. The King and Queen of Lesotho attended AHF's event in their country that year. Each World AIDS Day event has a unifying theme, though events in each country are adapted to the local setting with a specific focus on the populations most impacted in the respective regions.
AHF is a large proponent of condom use in preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. International Condom Day, created by AHF, promotes an increased focus on access to condoms in conjunction with the convenient, free Rapid Testing and the Universal Access to anti-retroviral treatment as the integral components of the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Since the inception of the LOVE Condom campaign in 2008, AHF-branded LOVE Condoms have gained popularity across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. Each year AHF and its partners commemorate the International Condom Day on February 13 with LOVE Condoms events such as marches and public outreach.
On International Women's Day, March 8, 2016, AHF hosted events and activities in 12 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Americas. While the official theme for International Women’s Day 2016 was “Pledge for Parity,” AHF encouraged teams in each participating country to adopt their own tagline tailored to their particular message. Nigeria’s tagline was “For Women by Women,” designating a day on which HIV-positive women participated in a series of activities championing positive living and reminding them they are not alone. AHF’s other worldwide events included leadership activities for young women, financial independence workshops, and motivational talks from prominent female figures. Zambia held a “Diva’s Nite” concert featuring all-female artists and South Africa a hip-hop competition encouraging young people to discuss gender inequality. HIV/AIDS outreach, testing and counseling accompanied most of the events.
AHF's anti-retroviral (ARV) studies include:Studies of new ARV medications, both before and after FDA approval
Studies for people who already take ARV medications and are failing, as well as studies for people who have not yet begun ARV therapy
Studies comparing different combinations of ARV medications
Studies to reduce the number of pills a person must take, and to reduce dosing frequency
Women’s studies, looking at the quality of life for women with HIV
Studies examining obstacles that prevent people from taking their ARV medications as prescribed
Research into related conditions such as Hepatitis C and neurological disorders
Dr. Otto Yang, AHF's Scientific Director, also heads the HIV Immunotherapy Institute.
AID Atlanta was first established in 1984 and affiliated with AHF in June 2015.
The AIDS Center of Queens County (ACQC) is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS services in the borough of Queens has served over 8,000 HIV+ clients, and 30,000 community residents in five sites throughout the borough. The AIDS Center of Queens (NY) County was first established in 1986 and affiliated with AHF in February 2015.
The ATGC is the community leader in providing or facilitating effective HIV/AIDS services, prevention education, and advocacy. This is accomplished through a combination of training, resource coordination, capacity building, and the collaborative participation of consumers, funders, social service professionals, volunteers, government, and other constituents. The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland was first established in 1983 and affiliated with AHF in June 2013.
ICAN provides HIV/AIDS education and prevention services to the wider community in continuing the fight to eliminate new infections. ICAN advocates for the rights and needs of individuals with HIV/AIDS to be treated compassionately, fairly and without judgment. ICAN was first established in 1987 and affiliated with AHF in March 2012.
Impulse Group is an international network of young gay men who are dedicated to promoting healthier sexual lifestyles among their peers. With support from AIDS Healthcare Foundation, this group of volunteers works to create campaigns, events, and online content to educate and raise awareness to a new generation of gay men. The first Impulse Group was founded in Los Angeles in February 2010, and now Impulse has 10 chapters—and growing— throughout the US and around the world.
Chicago’s South Side Help Center was founded in 1987 and affiliated with AHF in February 2015.
The Oakland/East Bay-based WORLD was first established in 1991 and affiliated with AHF in September 2014.
In May 1999, AHF filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles over the mismanagement of AIDS Housing Funds. Following a state legislator's audit, the Los Angeles City Controller revealed that more than $17 million in federal funds for people with AIDS went unspent as an AIDS homeless crisis raged in Los Angeles.
Condom laws litigation in Los Angeles and Las Vegas
In 2004, Darren James and three other adult film actors tested positive for HIV. In response to the outbreak, AHF began lobbying in favor of laws requiring condom use by male actors during sex scenes in adult films.
In 2010, AHF unsuccessfully sued the Los Angeles County government to compel its health department to mandate condom use in adult film productions.
In 2012, AHF supported a Los Angeles city ordinance requiring condoms in certain adult films. Later the same year, the organization spent US$1,654,681 funding the successful campaign to pass Measure B, a ballot initiative that expanded the condom requirement countywide.
AHF again sued the Los Angeles County government, alleging that an August 2012 audit conducted by the county was an illegal retaliation for AHF's support for Measure B. In 2013, AHF began collecting signatures for a ballot measure to create a Los Angeles city health department that would take over part of the county health department's jurisdiction. The City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles oppose the measure, and the city has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the measure.
In August 2014, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a formal complaint with Nevada OSHA, against Cybernet Entertainment LLC, which does business as Kink.com and related spin-offs. The complaint alleges the California porn company did not require its actors to use condoms during an adult film shoot in Las Vegas.
2014 San Francisco Lawsuit
In 2014, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed suit against the City of San Francisco. AHF claimed that city restrictions on chain stores targeted them unfairly when the organization attempted to open a retail store.
2014 Dallas County Lawsuit
In 2014, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed suit against the County of Dallas. AHF claimed that the County of not giving the agency a fair chance to bid for federal AIDS funding.
2013 Los Angeles Lawsuit
In 2013, AHF found itself entangled in dual lawsuits when AHF attempted to use political clout to force the City of Los Angeles to develop health services independent from the county. Health officials in affected departments filed responsive suits, arguing massive wastes would result in a transition or duplication of services.
2014 Los Angeles Lawsuit
In 2014, AHF was audited by Los Angeles county and billed $1.7 million for duplicated services. AHF filed suit, arguing that they were targeted on the basis of their political actions in the 2013 lawsuit. The lawsuit filed by AHF was thrown out by a judge.
2014 Tarrant County Texas Lawsuit
In 2014, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed suit against the County of Dallas. AHF claimed that the County of not giving the agency a fair chance to bid for federal AIDS funding.
2015 Broward County Court
In 2015, a Whistleblower lawsuit was filed by three former AHF managers. The employees allege AHF engaged and even documented kickback processes for positive HIV test results for social workers.
2016 East Baton Rouge Lawsuit
In 2016, the AIDS healthcare foundation filed suit against East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana, claiming it was discriminated against in the awarding of healthcare contracts. The suit specifically targeted funds given to longtime-standing local AIDS service organizations such as HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two, Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, and others. The suit was settled with funding left unchanged.
2016 Los Angeles Palladium Development Lawsuit
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) filed suit against the City of Los Angeles, alleging that the city violated laws and the city charter when it approved the development of two residential towers that are expected to be up to 30 stories tall. The City Council changed existing zoning and height limitations to allow the development, which would be next to the AHF Hollywood headquarters. A spokesperson for the development accused Michael Weinstein of filing the suit to maintain the view from his office.