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    Interview with the Groundbreaking New SF AIDS Foundation CEO Dr. Tyler TerMeer

    Tyler TerMeer, Ph.D., on February 14 will assume his role as the 8th Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. His appointment was announced on January 4. Dr. TerMeer will bring more than 17 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and HIV/AIDS policy and advocacy to the organization. He joins SFAF from Cascade AIDS Project and Prism Health, where he served as CEO for both organizations. 

    The Cascade AIDS Project is the largest community-based provider of HIV services in Oregon and southwest Washington. During Dr. TerMeer’s seven years of leadership there, he grew the organization from a staff of 55 to more than 185, expanded from one office location to seven across two states, oversaw a merger with Our House of Portland, and launched Prism Health to serve the primary care and mental health needs of LGBTQ+ community members. 

    Previously, Dr. TerMeer served as the Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at AIDS Resource Center Ohio, and as Director of Ohio AIDS Coalition. In 2012, he was honored by the White House as one of the “Nation’s Emerging LGBTQ+ Leaders,” and in 2013 was named by the White House as part of the “Nation’s Emerging Black Leadership.”

    Dr. TerMeer is living with HIV; he has served on the Board of Directors for Positive Pedalers (PosPeds), an HIV-positive cycling group, and has participated in AIDS/LifeCycle eleven times. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University.

    “The Board Search Committee was tasked with finding a leader that could oversee the complex and multi-faceted strategy and service delivery of SFAF. We have found that leader in Dr. TerMeer,” said Douglas Brooks, co-chair of SFAF’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Board Search Committee. “We have every confidence that he will guide the organization toward even greater progress on achieving the transformational goals of racial equity and health justice outlined in our strategic plan.”

    “Dr. TerMeer is an incredibly talented leader and has made clear his commitment to HIV prevention and care,” said Maureen Watson, co-chair of SFAF’s Board of Directors. “His personal connection to the work, combined with his skill and demonstrated leadership in this field will no-doubt serve SFAF well. We are looking forward to seeing how he moves the work of SFAF forward.”  

    “I was very excited to hear that Dr. TerMeer will be joining San Francisco AIDS Foundation as the next CEO,” said Cleve Jones, the co-founder of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Dr. TerMeer is eminently qualified for the role through his leadership in HIV and AIDS. And it is notable that he will be our first CEO who is a person of color and also living with HIV over the organization’s nearly 40 years of history. This is an incredibly historic moment, and one that I welcome fully. With Dr. TerMeer at the helm, I have no doubt that the organization will continue to grow and evolve in order to fulfill its commitment to all of us living with and at risk of HIV.”

    “San Francisco AIDS Foundation is pleased that our Board has selected the next CEO for our organization, with commitment to finding the right person for this unique role,” said Kevin Rogers, SFAF’s interim CEO. “Dr. TerMeer has demonstrated he is a strategic leader, whose focus on equity, racial justice, and experience in HIV health will serve him well as he leads our organization into its next chapter.” 

    The San Francisco Bay Times recently caught up with Dr. TerMeer to learn more.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What are your goals for the SFAF over the coming year?

    Dr. Tyler TerMeer: In the coming year, I’m looking forward to developing a complete understanding of SFAF’s:

    • Depth and Breadth of Programs and Services:I want to engage with SFAF’s community, both those served under the mission as well as the dedicated community of staff, board, donors, supporters, and volunteers. I’ll be listening to learn and gain a strong grasp of the experiences individuals and community have had with the foundation over time and what folx envision for the future of SFAF. Not only as the incoming CEO, but as a Black gay man living with HIV, this grounding in community is an incredibly valuable part of my journey. It is my belief that spending this time creates the best possible pathway to authentic, bold, and courageous leadership. Understanding SFAF’s history, both the highs and the lows, will put me in the best possible position to lead the team at SFAF as we work together towards a future where health justice is achieved for all people living with or at risk for HIV.  
    • Culture and Community: As SFAF continues its work through an unprecedented time of dueling pandemics, the racial reckoning, and COVID-19, I’ll want to quickly gain an understanding of the pulse of the organization. The passionate and dedicated folx that have been working in social and human services throughout the last 21 months have shown immense resilience and at the same time are exhausted. I hope to continue to assess the landscape and work with the leadership team at SFAF to find the ways in which we best support staff engagement and work to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue.
    • Financial Status: In order to best plan for SFAF’s continued fiscal health and ensure that the organization is able to fulfill its commitments to donors and the community, I’ll be working with the leadership team to gain a complete understanding of the organization’s revenue and expenses.
    • Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Journey: In order to advance its mission and vision, one of the priorities of SFAF is to strengthen organizational excellence with a focus on living our values, including a commitment to racial justice. It is this commitment to a transformational journey as well as their acknowledgement that this work would not be quick or easy, but imperative to ultimately realize the organization’s vision, mission, and values that drew me to the foundation. The current strategic plan adopts a cross-cutting theme of racial justice and reinforces the need for policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that will produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts, and outcomes for all. I am thrilled to be entering an organization that continues to prioritize Racial Justice and I am looking forward to learning more about the past, present, and future of this critical work!
    • Relationships:To have the greatest impact, any organization needs strong relationships. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the Bay Area to meet SFAF’s community members, community partners, and supporters and to continue to build upon and enhance those relationships in support of those we serve, especially among BIPOC communities, people over 50 living with HIV, and in support of drug user health.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Have you ever lived in the Bay Area before?

    Dr. Tyler TerMeer: I’ve never lived in the Bay Area before, but have visited frequently over the years. Most of my time in the Bay Area has coincided with more than a decade of participation in AIDS/LifeCycle, as both a rider and roadie captain, which benefits the SFAF and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What do you think will be unique about your work here versus your prior extensive experience at Cascade AIDS Project and Prism Health?

    Dr. Tyler TerMeer: Much of my experience at the Cascade AIDS Project and Prism Health provides a solid foundation for the amazing work already being provided by SFAF in the Bay Area. As organizations that have been responding to the HIV epidemic in the communities we serve for nearly 40 years, both CAP and SFAF have had to be nimble, have transformed as the epidemic has evolved, and been responsive to community need.

    One area that will be unique about my work in the Bay Area versus my experience over the last 7.5 years in the Pacific Northwest will be in SFAF’s priority to maintain, expand, and pilot substance use services, syringe access, and overdose prevention efforts, including establishing safer injection sites.

    While, my time and work at CAP has supported these efforts from a public policy stance as well as in community partnership to offer collaborative HIV and STI prevention, I have not directly worked for an organization providing this scope of work in support of drug user health. I’m looking forward to being briefed on this scope of work and policy efforts upon my arrival to SFAF.

    San Francisco Bay Times: How do you believe that your personal experiences being openly HIV positive and a person of color help to inform your work?

    Dr. Tyler TerMeer: In my personal and professional journey it has been incredibly important for me to find community. Now, each of us defines community differently, and in this instance, I am referring to community as a group of people or spaces where lived experiences and contributions are honored. In my nearly 18 years living with HIV, it has been unbelievably rewarding for me to cultivate and find this community of practice. I know that my current positionality in the world has been made possible because of the fight for life, access, and dignity. It is possible because of the decades of people living with and affected by HIV, who dating back to the Denver Principles in 1983 demanded meaningful involvement of people with AIDS in this movement. It is possible because generations of Black people before me fought for our rights and our/my place at the table.

    This is a historic moment for SFAF and for the communities to which I belong. I’m both incredibly honored to be offered this opportunity and proud to be taking the helm of an organization with such a powerful history of impact and future of justice.

    Published on January 27, 2022