By Karen Ocamb
Since it’s creation in 1989 by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the office of City AIDS Coordinator has been more than ceremonial. The first AIDS Coordinator, the late Dave Johnson, was a person with AIDS who ran Being Alive, testified before Congress and helped create the City’s AIDS Policy. The second AIDS Coordinator, HIV-positive Phill Wilson, spoke brilliantly before the L.A. City Council to counter irresponsibly inaccurate information touted by L.A. City Councilmember Nate Holden, who thought AIDS was an airborne disease.
The third AIDS Coordinator, the late Ferd Egan, was a former ACT UP activist who in 1993 persuaded Republican L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan that the city needed to endorse needle exchange programs as part of a comprehensive response to AIDS. Riordan declared a “state of emergency” to circumvent state law. Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and LAPD Chief Bernie Parks both issued department-wide memos telling officers to stop busting addicts at needle exchange program stops. I have no idea who served as the fourth coordinator but for the past eight years, the position has been held by the ubiquitous and politically-aware Stephen Simon, who expanded partnerships with other health organizations such as St. John's Health and Wellness Centers and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.
On July 1, Ricki Rosales assumed the position, having served as co-chair of the L.A. County HIV Prevention Planning Committee. He is expected to expand prevention and awareness services into underserved areas.
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