By Cyrus Mirzazadeh
Joanna Eveland, MD, remembers that one of the first HIV-positive people she worked with was a homeless man who camped on the front lawn of San Francisco General Hospital. This was in 2005, when Dr. Eveland first started working at SFGH as a medical student.
“It wasn’t until he had lost over a hundred pounds and started showing symptoms of an opportunistic infection that he sought medical attention and realized he had been living with HIV for many years. I realized it wasn’t enough to have good treatments if we couldn’t reach the people who needed them,” she said.
Over the years, Dr. Eveland has seen improvements in HIV care in San Francisco including better drugs and more responsive systems of care. Her career focus has been to make sure that the most vulnerable people in our city—immigrants, people who are homeless, people who use drugs—aren’t left behind.
“As an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, I began volunteering at the Berkeley Free Clinic because I was passionate about health equity and social justice. Along the way, I discovered that I loved working with patients. It is an unbelievable privilege to be a part of someone’s journey towards health and healing,” she said.
Dr. Eveland is the Clinical Chief for Special Populations at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Its HIV division, Clínica Esperanza, was founded in 1989 as the first clinic to offer specialized HIV care to monolingual Spanish speakers in San Francisco. In addition to time with patients, Dr. Eveland provides consultation on HIV and hepatitis to clinicians across the country through her work at the UCSF Clinician’s Consultation Center. She is also a trainer with the Bay Area and North Coast AIDS Education and Training Center.
As if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, Dr. Eveland is also the long-time host of a twice-monthly educational forum at San Francisco AIDS Foundation called “The Doctor Is In,” and a regular contributor to the HIV publication BETA.
“It’s crucial for people living with HIV to be as informed and engaged as they can be; to not just stay alive, but to live well. That’s why my work doesn’t end when I leave the clinic. I see education as a tool for fighting HIV related stigma. Sometimes it seems that stigma impacts the lives of my patients more profoundly than the virus itself.”
Hosting The Doctor Is In allows Dr. Eveland to stay current with both the HIV-positive community and the latest steps forward in HIV care. Dr. Eveland particularly enjoys speaking with audience members about the huge advances in HIV research.
“As a newer HIV doctor, I have a lot to learn from the patients and providers who were on the front lines during the early days of the HIV epidemic. HIV continues to profoundly impact San Francisco, both for long-term survivors and those newly diagnosed. I’m grateful to be able to offer such effective treatments for HIV today. Also, I hope to be out of a job in ten years,” she said. “I’m optimistic that we’ll have a cure for HIV in that time. Before then, it’s my job to promote wellness, and to share my knowledge and hope for the future with people who are interested.”
Find out more about Positive Force events, including The Dr. Is In, at Strutsf.org. Read more from Joanna Eveland, MD about starting HIV medications, what people with HIV should consider about what they eat, where we are in the search for an HIV vaccine, and other topics on BETA.
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