Facing increasingly hostile immigration policies and rhetoric from the current administration, undocumented people in the U.S. are leading lives filled with fear and uncertainty. Fear of deportation or prosecution is preventing people from seeking social services including medical care, with potentially dire consequences for people living with chronic diseases such as HIV.
“I think that as we have seen in the news a growing presence of ICE in communities—despite San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city—we are also seeing a growing trepidation and hesitation as people are seeking care,” said Liliana Schmitt, recruitment and retention coordinator for Clínica Esperanza at Mission Neighborhood Health Center.
Schmitt, who works with new clients at the clinic, said there are a variety of barriers that people from other countries seeking HIV care may face, but that clinic staff focus on making entry and retention in HIV care as easy as possible.
“We work with clients to figure out how to document things like identity, proof of income, residency, and insurance status—which can be difficult for many of our clients. Luckily, we have a lot of ways we can qualify that documentation. We don’t need official pay stubs, or an official lease or utility bill, for instance.”
HIV care staff at Clínica Esperanza and other HIV navigation and care centers in the Bay Area also work successfully with clients to figure out medication needs (for example, to find a similar medication to one the person had access to in another country), troubleshoot issues around traveling safely with HIV medications, and figure out how to pay for medications.
“These should not be limiting factors if you need HIV medications or PrEP,” said Schmitt. “It’s really important for people to know that many community sites and clinics in San Francisco—including ours—have payment programs and eligibility programs to help pay for HIV medications regardless of immigration or payment status.”
There are HIV care resources and protections for people of any immigration status in the Bay Area.
“It doesn’t matter what your immigration status is,” said Marco Partida, an HIV services navigator at San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “We are able to serve people regardless of what their immigration status is. We help people start or continue HIV care, get emergency supplies of medications, figure out how to pay for medications, and more.”
HIV navigation options in San Francisco
Navigation services help people living with HIV connect to any clinic or provider in the San Francisco Bay Area.
San Francisco AIDS Foundation staff provide services to all people living with HIV including people who are undocumented, people living with HIV and hepatitis C, transgender and gender non-conforming people, people who use drugs, and gay, bi and queer men. The team can help establish health care coverage and there are no insurance restrictions.
Call 415-602-9676 or 415-487-3000 and ask for the health navigator. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
St. James Infirmary provides navigation support for people who use drugs, current and former sex workers, and transgender and gender non-conforming people. Call 415-554-8497.
Shanti provides HIV navigation to all people living with HIV, including women, people who use drugs and people who are living with HIV and hepatitis C. Call 415-674-4760.
Glide provides HIV navigation to all people living with HIV, including people who use drugs, people living with HIV and hepatitis C, and transgender and gender non-conforming people. Call 415-674-6168.
HIV care options in San Francisco
The following clinics offer wrap-around care that includes medical care, benefits support and other social services.
Clínica Esperanza at Mission Neighborhood Health Center provides services for all people living with HIV, and specializes in care for Spanish-speaking and Latinx communities. Call Liliana Schmitt at 415-552-1013 x2234. http://www.mnhc.org/
Positive Health Program at Ward 86 provides HIV care for any person living with HIV. Call 415-206-2400.
San Francisco City Clinic provides care for people living with HIV including people who are uninsured or not currently in care. Call Andy Scheer at 415-487-5511.