The mission of the UCSF Alliance Heath Project is to support the mental health and wellness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities in constructing healthy and meaningful lives.
AHP’s goals seek to manifest this mission:
- Decrease health disparities within the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities
- Provide the highest quality mental health services and substance use counseling based on the most effective interventions
- Grow a diverse and culturally competent work environment that allows staff to do their best and clients to flourish
- Translate our frontline expertise and our research findings into interventions, publications, and trainings that broaden its effect beyond our local community
Our values guide our activities toward these goals and ensure that our services are:
- Client-centered. We focus on the individual needs of each person seeking our services
- Strength-based. We help individuals maximize their existing capacities to undertake the challenges they identify
- Health and wellness enhancing. We work toward an individual’s vision of a healthy and meaningful life
- Culturally competent. We constantly develop our capacities to match the growing diversity of the populations we serve; and we recognize that individuals, as the experts in their own lives, have much to teach us about their cultures
History: Evolution of a Community’s Capacity to Care for Itself
In 1983, the AIDS epidemic mobilized a group of San Francisco mental health providers to fashion a community response. In the absence of a clear scientific explanation for the cause of the disease, how it was acquired, how it might be prevented, and how it might be treated, San Francisco faced not only the physical manifestations—deterioration and dying young people—but also the exploding psychology of crisis: horror, despair, apathy, fear. And the crisis of mental, as well as physical, health grasped not only men who had sex with men, people who injected drugs, people being treated for hemophilia, and sexual partners of people who engaged in these behaviors, but also their loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, and health and mental health providers.
There is always a psychological component to physical disease. In the case of AIDS, the group of providers who founded the UCSF AIDS Health Project in 1984 realized that the psychological component of HIV was as difficult to comprehend, as challenging to treat as the HIV disease itself. But, in 1984, unlike HIV disease, the horror, despair, apathy, fear—and a host of other responses to the disease, to living at an epicenter in crisis, to mourning loss, to trying to avoid getting infected—were, at least, treatable. The AIDS Health Project was among the first manifestations of a community that had committed to respond, to treat itself; and it became among its most enduring: a manifestation that turned out to be a productive response, a treatment.
This is the crucible in which we defined AHP’s mission, goals, and values. Fast-forward 30 years. AHP has kept this mission, and the goals and values that derived from it, close to our hearts and primary in our minds—despite shifts in the epidemic, in the focus and scope of our services, and in the populations we have served. When AHP changed its name from the AIDS Health Project to the Alliance Health Project and expanded our mission to explicitly include the health and wellness of LGBTQ people, it reflected only minor changes in focus, a broadening, rather than a moving on or past or away from. We promise our clients and our communities that we will always be AHP: whatever shifts we make will never compromise this history, and will always reflect sustenance of programs that work, innovation in response to new challenges, and never abandonment or complacency.