The San Francisco native and longtime bishop of City of Refuge United Church of Christ will be recognized today — World AIDS Day — as a Local Unsung Hero for her work as the executive director of the Ark of Refuge.
When did you start doing work on the HIV/AIDS cause? I started doing AIDS work in 1986, very early in the epidemic, in the
African-American faith community. At the time [the disease] was called GRID — the gay-related immune deficiency — and we had a lot of people who were dying form upper respiratory problems and other problems, and we didn’t know what was going on.
How does it feel to be recognized on World AIDS Day in San Francisco? I’m particularly grateful because it’s in my hometown. I don’t know if I would have been able to be free to be who I am in many of the other places I’ve been.
What would you like to see happen next to support the HIV-positive community? There’s a need that we continue to make people aware of the presence of HIV. ... We have to work with the youths who sometimes assume that if they contract it, it’s OK because there’s a cure. They have no idea how it changes lives — no idea.
Funding for HIV programs is in jeopardy right now. What do you think of that problem? It stirs up an entrepreneurial response that I remember from the mid-’80s and the early ’90s, when we didn’t have any funding, and we could not depend on grants. It will require us as HIV providers to work together.
— Katie Worth