August 2020
Report from the 2020
International AIDS Conference 
Andy Fyne, Director of Harm Reduction
The International AIDS Conference, the world’s premiere scientific meeting on HIV/AIDS, is held every two years. AIDS2020 was to return to the Bay Area in July after a three decade long absence, but could not be held in person due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It did convene and bring together the World’s foremost HIV experts virtually, however. Much was presented and discussed, especially how Covid 19 has affected HIV care and prevention, but there were not many major advances announced. I do want to highlight two remarkable presentations, though. In keeping with The Spahr Center’s leadership to Get to Zero with HIV in Marin, meaning zero HIV-related deaths and zero new HIV infections, these studies hint at exciting prospects for curing HIV and more effectively preventing it. For more information on these breakthroughs and others, visit Blogs on AIDS2020.

First Case of Long-Term HIV Remission without Bone Marrow Transplant
An exciting study shows the first possible case of an adult with HIV to achieve long-term remission of HIV infection without a bone marrow transplant, an extremely high impact treatment that has previously shown effects in only two people. Data from a pilot proof-of-concept study from the Federal University of Sao Paulo revealed that one of five individuals receiving intensified multi-drug antiretroviral therapy (ART) with twice-daily Nicotinamide for 48 weeks, a 34-year-old Brazilian male diagnosed with HIV in 2012, maintained long-term HIV remission without the need for a bone marrow transplant. Nicotinamide is a form of vitamin B3. He stopped taking ART in March of 2019, and the researchers have been unable to detect the virus since – which suggests this person might have been cured. This is only one person, so we need to be very cautious. However, the idea that an individual can start ART early and intensify treatment with what we call ‘latency reversal’ drugs – drugs to stimulate the latently infected cells – and that this can lead to long-term remission or cure of HIV seems merits additional study.

Injectable v. Oral PrEP
Another study presented shows long-acting injectable Cabotegravir is more effective in preventing HIV than daily oral Truvada, which has been the gold standard since 2010. Updated results from the HPTN 083 study found that Cabotegravir, injected once every eight weeks for long-acting Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, is not only just as effective, but superior to daily oral Truvada for PrEP. Daily adherence to PrEP in its current form has been problematic, so this result is a potential game-changer for HIV prevention. The study looked at a large sample of cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with men, and saw a 66% improvement with the injectable regime. A much needed study on cisgender women is due out shortly.
Join Us for Our First Friday Night At The Movies Our First Movie is Word Is Out on Its 43rd Anniversary.
Friday, September 25th at 7:00 pm
Many of us remember that, when it was first released in 1977, the documentary Word Is Out was completely revolutionary. A group of openly gay filmmakers came together to interview 26 very diverse gay men and lesbians about their relationships with family and lovers, experiences of coming out, and dreams for the future of a young movement for social justice. In limited release after its premier at the Castro Theatre, the film found a national audience in 1978 on PBS.

The Spahr Center inaugurates Friday Night At the Movies with a showing of Word Is Out! Please join us for this great event on Friday, September 25 at 7:00 in the evening. Just click here on the day of the showing to join the zoom!

Photo credit: Janet Cole/Milliarium Zero
Join Us for National HIV Long-Term Survivors Day Observance – Tuesday, September 15 at 5:00 pm
Major advances in the treatment of HIV mean that many HIV-positive people are now living long and healthy lives. Indeed, of Marin’s 635 HIV-positive residents, fully 51 percent are over age 55, and 24 percent are between 45 and 54! Many of The Spahr Center’s 220 HIV clients have lived with the virus since the 1980s and early 1990s, when treatments went from non-existent to toxic before improving greatly in 1995. Their medical journey and experience of loss and grief have been profound. 

Please join us on September 15 at 5:00 to honor our long-term survivors of HIV. The event will include remarks from some of The Spahr Center’s most cherished clients, and a discussion about needs of people aging with HIV that the agency must address in its future work. Here is the link to this important gathering
The Spahr Center’s Food Pantry Is Open to LGBTQ+ Experiencing Food Insecurity
The Spahr Center recently conducted a survey of its senior clients to measure health, financial security, housing stability, connectedness to community and other factors. A point that stood out for us was food insecurity among our clients, pre-existing Covid, but exacerbated by it. This should not be the case in Marin, which is both well-resourced and home to several significant food banks and meal programs.

For many years, The Spahr Center has operated a food pantry for its HIV-positive clients, and we continually work to improve the quantity and quality of the food we provide. Starting this month, we are supplementing food we secure from the Marin Food Bank with additional fresh meat, produce, dairy, cereals and bread, and other groceries from Trader Joe’s. Food is now delivered to clients throughout the county rather than being distributed at our office, due to Covid-19. 

The Pantry is now available to all LGBTQ+ people in Marin who are experiencing food insecurity. Simply email and we will make simple arrangements to add you to the program.
Transcendental Meditation Classes Are Available – A Powerful and Timely Support in these Difficult Times
Join Internet-based, “virtual” lessons, available with minimal personal contact. 

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a simple, natural, effortless mental technique that’s practiced for 20 minutes, twice each day. Over 350 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies indicate that TM improves alertness, memory, focus and creativity, while reducing anxiety. Physically, TM provides a deep period of rest that releases deep-rooted stress, reduces tension and fatigue, increases energy, and improves health. Emerging research is also indicating the effectiveness of TM on significantly improving the quality of life among those living with HIV. Please visit to review the research, and learn more.

We are pleased to bring the TM program to all clients and staff of The Spahr Center. This program is made possible thanks to grants from the Maharishi Foundation, scholarship funding from the David Lynch Foundation, and led by our wonderful supporter, Thomas Roth.

Classes are almost entirely virtual, via an interactive app you’ll download to your iPhone or android device. The lessons involve one safe, in-person meeting at The Spahr Center (by appointment), followed by three daily 1-hour virtual lessons on the app at your home, including an evening meditation via video call. (Note: If you don’t have an iPhone or android phone but want to learn, let Tom know. He will add you to our waiting list for the next fully in-person course, when we can start those again.)

Please watch a 20-minute orientation video about the many great benefits of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, and then sign up to take the course.

After watching the video, please email Thomas Roth, Certified TM Teacher, to review the course structure and requirements, and to schedule your lessons:
Support Our Homeless Clients Through The Great Sock Drive!
The Spahr Center is hosting The Great Sock Drive for people in the homeless community we serve through our HIV and harm reduction programs. With access to public bathrooms interrupted due to Covid-19, one of the ways in which Covid has impacted homeless people is that they have nowhere to go to clean their clothes and are in especially in need of SOCKS!

The next time you buy socks, or if you can make a special shopping trip or place an online order, someone in need will be extremely grateful for your donation of some brand spanking new ones. Call us in advance at 415.457.2487 if you want to do a socially-distanced hand over at our office at 150 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera. Or feel free to have them shipped directly to us at the same address in CA 94925! We will make sure they get to our clients in need. Thank you!  
Support Groups Are Forming for Bisexual/Pansexual People and Senior LBTQ Women
The Spahr Center is inviting participation in two new monthly drop-in groups. The first is for senior lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women. The second is for bisexual people. Both groups are to be led by therapists, and while ongoing participation is encouraged, individuals may join on a drop-in basis. Dates and times of meetings will be chosen by participants and facilitators once the groups have formed.

For more information or to sign up, please email
Volunteer Today to Support Your Candidate for President AND Make Sure You Are
With every day that passes, the implications for social justice posed by the upcoming Presidential election become more apparent and urgent. Simultaneously, many of us continue to stick close to home to stay safe from Covid-19 and are getting a little bored! Fear not!

The Spahr Center has compiled a list of volunteer opportunities that will help you get your candidate for President elected. Simply click here to learn about things you can do from the comfort and safety of your home to reach voters across the country who need to be encouraged to do the right thing for the future of our nation and planet.

September 22 is National Voter Registration Day. Between now and then, The Spahr Center will be issuing reminders about this critical right and responsibility of our community members. As a reminder, it is a good idea to make sure that your voter registration is current, especially if you have moved in the last two years. Please go here to check your status, change addresses, OR TO REGISTER TO VOTE IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY!! 

And one additional and important reminder! All registered voters in Marin County will automatically be sent a Vote By Mail ballot on or very close to October 5. We have all heard about concerns that the Postal Service may not handle the return of our mail-in ballots in a timely way. The Spahr Center encourages you to complete your ballot as soon as you get it and put it right back in the return mail. If you want to be super confident that your ballot will be counted, you can take it to a designated drop-off location starting on October 6: Whistlestop at 930 Tamalpais in San Rafael, at sites listed at, or by calling the Elections Department at (415) 473-6456.
September is Suicide Prevention Month
The Spahr Center is an active part of Marin County’s collaborative effort to reduce suicides, which disproportionately affect LGBQ, and especially Transgender individuals. We are therefore participating in Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month. This month creates an opportunity for all of us – survivors, affected family and friends, community members, medical and social services providers alike - to increase our understanding of suicide prevention and recovery options. 

Each one of us can play a role in creating a safe community for those in distress.
Staff Changes at The Spahr Center
We are sad to announce that Bri Silva, who has served with such commitment, hard work and success as our Development and Communications Manager, as well as Executive Assistant, for the past three years has left the agency to help with family needs. We are so grateful to Bri for helping to assure the success of fundraising, our newsletter, food pantry, support services for women living with HIV and much more. Best wishes, Bri!

We are very happy to announce that Bill Blackburn has become our Senior Program Coordinator! Bill has served in an interim capacity in this position since March of 2019 to make sure we were doing our utmost to support our LGBTQ senior clients in the midst of the pandemic. He has led a great program ever since. Along the hardworking members of our Senior Advisory Committee, Bill has made sure that we are checking on the welfare of 160 core senior clients, and with the great Nancy Flaxman’s support, he has assembled a compelling series of weekly discussions by Zoom. Bill’s heartfelt and thoughtful presence has been much appreciated by our participants, and we are very glad that he wants to continue in this role.

We have assembled funding to move to another step in the Senior program – conducting outreach to residential care facilities where LGBTQ seniors may feel very isolated and working to plug them into our supportive community. In his permanent status, Bill will be working to launch this important effort!