Our Research

We conduct and publish original research that provides deeper understandings of our communities, driving forward innovations in health, substance use treatment and HIV prevention. We partner with researchers both locally and nationally to address gaps in knowledge regarding how HIV affects our communities.

PrEP and Hormone Therapy

Up to 2018, PrEP clinical studies had largely excluded trans people as study participants, leaving unanswered questions about the effects of PrEP on gender-affirming hormone therapy and vice versa. To study this question, SFAF, in collaboration with UCSF, conducted a study with trans people taking gender-affirming hormones and PrEP. Results are pending.

Aging and HIV

In 2018, San Francisco AIDS Foundation programs including the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network, TransLife and Latino Programs recruited participants in collaboration with ACRIA for the ROAH Study. The ROAH study examined the health and wellness of older adults living with HIV in our community, and found that the majority of people described their physical health as excellent or good, nearly all participants were receiving antiretroviral therapy, and over 90% reported having an undetectable viral load.

However, 41% reported their health as fair, poor or very poor, and many participants said their work or social lives were hampered by their health. Of great concern were mental health and wellbeing outcomes: 38% had moderate to very severe depression and 35% exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Other key areas of concern were high rates of loneliness and high rates of people reporting that they struggle with high housing cost and hunger. The foundation’s Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network works to address social isolation and as many other needs as possible within this community.


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The Building Healthy Online Communities initiative brings together public health organizations and dating apps--to improve the experience of app users, give users good info, and more.

More about current and past research projects!

DISCOVER Study for Descovy as PrEP

The DISCOVER study is a clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of Descovy (a candidate PrEP medication) to prevent HIV in men who have sex with men and transgender women. The study enrolled 5,400 participants in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Although the study is still ongoing, preliminary results from the trial have shown Descovy to be as effective in preventing HIV as Truvada (the currently available PrEP medication), in addition to safe and well-tolerated.

Pacing Alcohol Consumption Experiment (PACE)

PACE was designed to determine the impact of several strategies to reduce Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) among gay bar patrons in San Francisco. The study revealed that media campaigns, normative feedback and structural interventions such as free water in bars were able to reduce BAC by 30%. Read an article about the study, and how it was translated into a current SFAF program called Cheers Queers.

Meth harm reduction: STEP Study of Stonewall Project outcomes

The STEP Study was conducted with participants in the substance use counseling program of SFAF (The Stonewall Project), to determine how The Stonewall Project changed meth use, sexual risk-taking behavior and HIV health. Participants reported reductions in methamphetamine use and sexual risk-taking behavior while using methamphetamine. The Stonewall Project is a harm reduction-based substance use treatment program of San Francisco AIDS Foundation that provides services to gay/bi and other men who have sex with men.

Latino Programs many research partnerships

Current: In partnership with San Francisco State University (SFSU), an applied research project to assess bio-psycho-social needs of Spanish Speaking Communities living on the San Francisco Streets
Past: In partnership with SFSU and UC Berkeley (UCB), an applied research project to assess the ability of rural immigrants to receive HIV testing and counseling, PrEP information and counseling, HIV care and support or mental health services in rural California
Past: In partnerships with SFSU and UCB, an applied research project to assess and identify health challenges including the prevalence of illness, point of entry to health care, retention and continuum of treatment (in the United States, and /or Mexico or cyclic transits), and their use of the Affordable Care Act services.

Rapid treatment for new HIV diagnoses (Test and Be Treated)

The steps of the HIV care cascade often function as an obstacle course for individuals who have been newly diagnosed with HIV. A new HIV diagnosis must be confirmed, usually by methods that take several days, and then individuals must link to medical care for screening labs and antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, a process that often requires insurance enrollment or changes. These steps can be time-consuming and difficult to navigate logistically and emotionally.
The RAPID approach, pioneered at UCSF’s Ward 86 HIV clinic, seeks to collapse the many steps of the care cascade and simplify the process of ART initiation. In the RAPID model, patients receive immediate ART, including through starter packs, even as other aspects of their care are being arranged. The Ward 86 model began through a system of same or next-day referrals from testing sites around San Francisco. The “Test and Be Treated” or TBT study, supported by the California HIV Research Program, seeks to streamline the process of ART initiation even further.