aids.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee cut the ribbon to the Department of Public Health’s renovated Bridge HIV research facility in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood this morning with the help of local, state and federal health and political leaders.

The 10 a.m. ceremony at the side Oak Street entrance to the 25 Van Ness Ave. health department building ushered in the opening of the nearly-complete offices and clinics of the AIDS Office, which have been undergoing a remodel since October 2011.

With a $9.5 million federal grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 the 17,000-square-foot research and health facility renovation will be complete by January 2013.

As of today, 70 percent of the renovation is complete including revamped clinic and administrative offices and a laboratory.

Bridge HIV director Dr. Susan Buchbinder said the AIDS Office department had previously been named the HIV Research Section but the new name reflects the research team’s connection to the past and future of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

Lee noted the significance of a state-of-the-art research facility in the fight to end HIV and AIDS.

“We need to find those cures,” he said.

He extended his gratitude to President Obama for his influence in funding the renovation project.

San Francisco supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos, in turn, acknowledged Lee as the reason a portion of the city budget has been dedicated to AIDS research over the years.

Wiener and Campos–both openly gay politicians–reflected on the changes in the gay community concerning HIV over the past 30 years as research and science, medicine and technology improves.

Gesturing to the building, Campos said, “This could very well be the place we find a cure for AIDS.”

Herb Schultz, regional IX director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shook his container of pills he takes as an HIV-positive patient and reflected on the changes in the treatment, research and prevention of HIV and AIDS since he was diagnosed 21 years ago.

Speaking about San Francisco and the new research facility, he said, “This place is revolutionary.”

Grant Colfax, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, named San Francisco as a leader in AIDS research.

“(San Francisco) helps guide us on the national level,” he said.

Buchbinder noted the San Francisco offices previously had outgrown the AIDS Office space to the point where there wasn’t enough room to hold patient files and paperwork or to hold community meetings.

On a tour of the refurbished facility, Bridge HIV lab coordinator Kimberly Marsh said the previous lab was shared by all AIDS Office sections, which includes the Bridge, epidemiology and prevention departments, and in a smaller space.

The new lab now features a large freezer and two centrifuges.

Clinic rooms had previously been converted office rooms but are now set up like a medical clinic.

The LEED Silver-certified space on the first, third, fifth and sixth floors of the 1911 former Masonic Temple of California building has been fully functioning since August, and the department continued to serve patients even during renovations.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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