AHP News

April 18, 2024

Racism, homophobia, and transphobia make the work at AHP as vital now, as it was forty years ago. In 1984, in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a group of concerned mental health practitioners founded the AIDS Health Project; their mission was to help AIDS patients and their loved ones who were suffering from the terror, uncertainty, loneliness, and grief associated with this new, devastating disease. The homophobia and AIDS phobia targeting the community in those days increased the despondency for those fighting for their lives and propelled our founders to do everything they could to care for and strengthen those affected.

Defying the Odds logoThroughout the years, including a name and mission change, AHP has grown and expanded to agilely meet the needs of LGBTQ+ community members living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS. As the epidemic has changed, the organization has changed, by building programs and developing services to respond to the changing needs of the community. AHP has been a bedrock of advocacy for clients, the community, and their funders. The Alliance Health Project has a rich and storied history, and they are looking toward their future with purpose and determination. According to Jen Shockey (they/them) Provider Education and Training Manager, “a lot has changed in forty years but LGBTQ+ people face a backlash of conservatism with a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills (over 500 were introduced in the US in 2023. These attacks lead to social stigma, societal discrimination, violence, and psychological distress among our...

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February 28, 2024

The Alliance Health Project staff and leadership team are thrilled to introduce Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo, MD, our newest Medical Director. Dr. Ogbu-Nwbodo is a highly sought-after psychiatrist and activist who embodies wisdom, authenticity, and unwavering advocacy. She possesses a keen knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion while supporting a large community psychiatry clinic, a team of fellows, residents, and post-baccalaureate trainees.

Dr. Ogbu-Nwobodo doesn’t try to fix, manage, or control complicated issues, but gently acknowledges the pain of being immersed in them. She listens attentively, thanks her speakers consistently, and responds brightly with critical theory, a keen sensitivity toward trauma, and optimism for healing. 

Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo, MD
Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo, MD

In the few months that Dr. Ogbu-Nwobodo has served as AHP’s Medical Director, she has exhibited an unwavering commitment to justice and a deep compassion toward the staff and clients. Community Advisory Board member and colleague of Dr. Ogbu-Nwobodo’s, Michelle Porche, EdD, had this to say about her: “Dr. Ogbu-Nwobodo is forging a path for the next generation of psychiatrists, both in her mentoring of post-baccalaureates towards careers in medicine and in her training of psychiatry residents. She is a talented clinician for patients from marginalized communities and a champion for those who have been historically excluded from healthcare professions. Alliance Health Project and its clients are the well-served...

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February 2, 2024

The UCSF Alliance Health Project (AHP) is delighted to welcome William “Will” Hua, PhD as our new agency Director. Will joins Deputy Director Braulio Garcia, LCSW, to complete the organization’s leadership transformation following the 2023 departure of Director Lori Thoemmes. Along with our Management Team, Will and Braulio will be forging the path forward for AHP staff, clients, and volunteers.   

William Hua, PhDWill’s arrival coincides with AHP’s 40th Anniversary and adds to the excitement of this historical moment as we celebrate both the tenacity and resilience of our LGBTQ+ and HIV-affected communities and AHP’s future of strength-based, client-centered health and wellness. As a co-investigator on research and care that focused on HIV, Hepatitis C, chronic pain, opioid use, and alcohol disorders, he is intimately familiar with the range of health concerns that bring clients to AHP for help.  Will describes feeling an instant connection to AHP’s mission to support the health and wellness of HIV-affected and LGBTQ communities and noted how moved he feels by the organization's passion, dedication, and commitment to providing the most thoughtful and comprehensive services to our clients.  

Before joining AHP, Will served as a clinical health psychologist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs where he  held a range of leadership roles including Chair of the Psychology Diversity Committee, Director of a Mental Health HIV/HCV Specialty Care Access Network Clinic; staff lead of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Clinic, and faculty member...

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August 10, 2023

Transfeminine and non-binary colleagues talking in an officeAn LGBTQIA+ trauma care study proposed by the UCSF Alliance Health Project (AHP) research team is one of six national studies to secure funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The study will compare the effectiveness of PTSD treatments within sexual and gender minority populations. The PCORI grant will support a five-year study.

High rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among LGBTQ+ people are a known fact. This is often accompanied by other mental health problems and experiences of unique risks such as discrimination and prejudice that may contribute to PTSD. The AHP study will be a long overdue look at which treatments are most helpful for PTSD in our communities. “LGBTQ+ populations tend to be very under-studied,” said Annesa Flentje, PhD, who will lead the study at AHP.

In addition to her work with AHP, Flentje is the Director of the UCSF Center for Sexual & Gender Minority Health and the UCSF Site Director of The PRIDE Study, the first large-scale, long-term national health study of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or another sexual or gender minority (LGBTQ+). The term sexual and gender minority (SGM) is used in clinical and research settings as an inclusive and consistent way to refer to our diverse communities. It describes individuals who are minorities related to their sexual orientation or gender, including but not limited to people who identify...

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June 20, 2023

Leadership Change at AHP

The UCSF Alliance Health Project (AHP) is announcing the retirement of our Director, Lori Thoemmes. After beginning as a mental health crisis consultant in 1995, Thoemmes has been an impressive operational, clinical and community leader of AHP for the past 28 years. Under her capable guidance the organization has expanded its capacity to care for more people in need of mental health, substance use, and HIV-related care in San Francisco. Thoemmes guided the organization through its name and mission change in 2012 and AHP’s annual budget has nearly doubled under her leadership. As an organization dependent on government contracts and grants, she has also graciously interfaced with Federal, State and local leaders, building stellar relationship with our funders and community partners.

Director Thoemmes will leave a significant legacy as a tenacious and engaged doer. Her commitment to the LGBTQ community was honored with the UCSF Chancellor’s Award for LGBTQI Leadership in 2019. A consummate leader, a champion of accessible mental health care, and an unwavering advocate for creating a fair and equitable LGBTQ+ antiracist organization, she will be greatly missed.

While a national search to replace Thoemmes continues, Braulio García, LCSW has been appointed AHP’s new Deputy Director. García’s promotion reflects an expansion in the agency’s leadership structure including the creation of this new position responsible for clinical oversight. While the Director role remains vacant, Braulio will also hold the Interim Director...

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May 25, 2023
The UCSF Alliance Health Project (AHP) is pleased to present our 2021/2022 Annual Report, “AHP Now.”
May 5, 2023
Interview with UCSF Associate Professor Annesa Flentje, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of California, San Francisco in the School of Nursing, Community Health Systems, School of Medicine, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Flentje is also the Associate Director and UCSF Site Director of The PRIDE Study and Associate Professor of Research at Alliance Health Project. The focus of the Pride Study is to determine how being LGBTQ+ is related to physical, mental, and social health. Similarly, in a study of sexual minority men living with HIV, her team provided a cognitive behavioral intervention to reduce the impact of minority stress such as discrimination. By collecting blood samples, Flentje found there were biological changes in gene expression related to immune function. This study suggests that interventions to address minority stress due to factors such as sexual orientation, gender expression, HIV status, race or ethnicity, homelessness, or socioeconomic status, may be applied to improve immune function and health outcomes. With The Pride Study, Flentje has also helped build an infrastructure to study LGBTQ+ health over time.
February 14, 2022

Art & Harm Reduction Group

Can art heal the spirit and the mind? AHP is excited to take clients on a journey of discovery by offering a creative arts support group that will combine art and harm reduction as a new healing approach.

The first Art and Harm Reduction group is already filled and has a waiting list! “This is a clear indication that our clients are excited to attend the group where they can come together to express themselves creatively in community,“ notes Substance Use Counselor Charlie Dunkin, LCSW, the founder of the group.

This inspiring new program has been a community effort from its inception to the writing of a grant from BAPHR (Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights), designing a curriculum and securing supplies through a gift certificate from Blick Art Supplies. Everyone is eager to see this new group come to life.

Narrative Therapy as a Foundation for Art Techniques
Art therapists can channel maladaptive or dangerous instincts into creative products that allow clients to communicate and work through difficult thoughts and complex emotions.

Art therapy can influence a range of human functioning, we find, including self-perception and interpersonal interactions. Even a 45-minute creative activity can change a person’s mental state.” American...

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June 15, 2021

If you’ve walked or driven by Alliance Health Project at 1930 Market Street, you may have noticed the new mural and paint colors on the building.

The UCSF Alliance Health Project (AHP) has been providing HIV, mental health, and substance use services for 37 years. Founded as the AIDS Health Project during the height of the AIDS pandemic, the organization is one of the city’s queer-centered behavioral health providers. Located in the Department of Psychiatry at ZSFG, the Alliance Health Project is a stand-alone clinic funded by the City and County of San Francisco, State, and Federal contracts and grants.

The mural was commissioned in 2020 with the intention that it represent the collective values of the organization.  Staff collaborated on a list of guiding principles and ideals that define AHP to include in the vision for the plan.  The published Call for Submissions asked for a mural that said “lives are transformed here” and which aligned with AHP’s mission to “to support the health and wellness of the LGBTQ and HIV-affected community in constructing healthy and meaningful lives.”

After extensive outreach to local artists, AHP received fourteen proposals.  A volunteer jury of three art professionals - Daniele Wohl, Robert Melton, and Jennifer Ferris - narrowed the selections to four finalists.  They evaluated the proposals based on alignment with the requested themes and vision, technical ability, and overall design appeal.  The winning design was submitted by Seibot and featured their...

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May 12, 2021

Until March 2020, being a member of AHP’s Provider Training and Education (PTE) team meant travelling as many as 10 days out of every month.

“I have a lot of polyester in my wardrobe because; no wrinkles, easy clean, travels great, and I spill a lot of food,” said trainer Michelle Cataldo.

Then COVID-19 happened, and we were all told to stay home as much as possible and not gather in groups. Suddenly, the give and take that Michelle and her colleagues feel with their training participants—one of the most prized parts of their jobs—the energy in the room as participants learn from each other, as well as, from the trainers, was put on hold.

AHP has a small but mighty team. It consists of manager, Jen Shockey, logistics coordinator, Neffitiria Staton, and trainers and curriculum developers: Francisco Nanclares, Mary Salazar, Stephen Scott and Michelle Cataldo. Their team’s two main functions are to certify California HIV test counselors and conduct national in-person trainings on high impact HIV prevention interventions.

When COVID shutdowns occurred, this boisterous team of extraverts, who laugh a lot, bring home-cooked food to meetings while they talk and plan or work in each other’s cubicles, was suddenly told to stay home. Just like the rest of the world, they had to reinvent how they work. And just like the rest of the world, they learned that a two-hour Zoom meeting can feel like a 20-hour meeting. They started using Slack all the time and sending each other little gifts via Amazon because they missed being together. And they faced...

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