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    The Alvin H. Baum, Jr, Memorial Lecture Series

    Mike Shriver

    By Mike Shriver–

    The truth is, I miss Al.

    Three years ago, we lost a giant in the LGBTQIA+ and Jewish communities. Al Baum, Jr., was a philanthropist, a pioneer, an accomplished lawyer and therapist, an amazing individual, and someone I had the privilege of calling a friend. It was easy to see why Rabbi Camille Angel, along with Robert Holgate (Al’s husband) and Pam David, created the “Al Baum Memorial Lecture Series” at the University of San Francisco (USF), to honor his legacy.

    I first met Al in the late 1980s, having been introduced to him by another one of our LGBTQ pioneers and philanthropists, Jim Hormel. Al was funny, he was engaging, he was gruff, and he embodied the spirit of someone who truly wanted to do the best for his community. A tremendous amount of my time with Al was spent in our work to address the AIDS epidemic. Al could always be counted on to help support programs, agencies, and efforts that aimed at helping bring an end to the HIV crisis, both locally as well as nationally. Countless lives were improved, and countless policy and programs were sustained because of Al’s commitment to using philanthropy to further the cause. He made a difference. And his absence is deeply felt.

    Al Baum

    Al taught me the critical value of being perpetually dissatisfied, of never settling, of always seeking to improve. There is always more to be done, more to support, more to being a responsible member of our community.

    In its first two years of existence, the Al Baum Lecture Series has showcased two heroes of mine, Marcy Adelman and Mark Leno, both of whom also are “teaching elders” in Rabbi Angel’s “LGBTQIA+ Jewish Elders” class. Following in their footsteps and being asked to give this year’s Al Baum Memorial Lecture is rather daunting, and I hope to do all their legacies justice.

    When I was approached by Rabbi Camille Angel to participate in her LGBTQIA+ Jewish Elders program at USF three years ago, I was both honored and a little surprised. I mean, I wasn’t sure that I met the criteria for being deemed an “elder” but was more than happy to take that opportunity and help educate a trio of young adults as to what it was like to come of age during the AIDS crisis. I have always believed in the importance of telling our story, our stories, of always making sure our history as a community and as a movement was being used to honor our past and help shape our future. I should also note that I was quite impressed that a Jesuit-run institution of higher learning was hosting such a class, a class taught by an out queer Rabbi.

    At the end of the semester, when I viewed for the first time the video my students had made about me, I realized the power of this class and the privileged opportunity I had been given to teach/share with younger generations my activist history about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and our community’s fierce advocacy to be treated with care and respect. This experience has been repeated each subsequent class I have had the privilege of being a “teaching elder.” 

    The time with my students has helped me gain a newfound perspective on the work we did as AIDS activists, advocates, service providers, and as community members. It also opened up old memories and wounds, but reminded me of how important my friends and my community were and are to me, to my health, and well-being. It has also shown me that the work is far from over.

    Rabbi Camille Angel
    Photo by MJ Abrams / SWIG Program in Jewish Studies & Social Justice
    University of San Francisco

    We find ourselves at a crossroads now in our efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in San Francisco (as well as regionally, nationally, and across the globe). Few cities in the world can see the end of the pandemic as clearly as we can here in San Francisco, yet locally we are still miles away from the finish line. While the number of new HIV infections here has been on a steady and encouraging decline, we still see new HIV infections among several of the same communities that have consistently shouldered a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic.

    The goal in “Getting to Zero SF” is to reduce HIV transmissions and HIV-related deaths by 90% by the year 2025. But this requires a lot of work and a tremendous infusion of energy, funding, and innovation. It also demands a willingness to name and to confront where we have fallen short in helping those communities who are still not seeing the benefit of HIV technologies, interventions, programs, advocacy, and support. It requires a commitment to prioritize, to value, and, most specifically, to invest the necessary resources into these underserved communities.

    Unless and until we see all individuals and communities at-risk for HIV infection as being equally worthy of health, wellness, and a future without AIDS, the notion of Getting to Zero will remain aspirational and hollow.

    I hope to do Al proud with my lecture.

    Mike Shriver is a member of the Castro Country Advisory Board who previously served as Co-Chair of the HIV Community Planning Council and Chair of the National AIDS Memorial Board of Directors. He will deliver the third annual Alvin H. Baum, Jr., Memorial Lecture at USF on April 7. For more information:

    Dr. Marcy Adelman oversees the Aging in Community column. For her summary of current LGBT senior challenges and opportunities, please go to:

    Alegre Home Care is proud to support Dr. Marcy Adelman’s Aging in Community column in the San Francisco Bay Times.

    Aging in Community
    Published on March 21, 2024