Sen. Scott Wiener and the Fight for HIV Prevention

California state Senator Scott Wiener is no stranger to the AIDS crisis. He fought to make a difference as a volunteer and activist in the ‘90s and continues to create change as a member of the California State Senate. The National AIDS Memorial had the honor to sit down with Sen. Wiener, who first introduced Senate Bill (S.B.) 339 and pioneered it forward.

What is California S.B. 339?

In February 2024, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 399 into law. The bill makes PrEP,  an effective method to help prevent HIV infection, available to residents without a prescription.

Answering the Need for HIV Prevention Resources

Despite the stigma and hatred surrounding the LGBTQ+ community at the height of the AIDS crisis, Sen. Wiener came out as gay and began volunteering with an HIV hotline. “We went through a time when having sex was associated with death and fear of dying,” Sen. Wiener recalls. “People were scared, and just having a voice on the other end of the line meant a lot to them.” This experience has stuck with Sen. Wiener decades later.

Here in the 2020s, there are still more than 100,000 people living with HIV in California alone. “HIV is still very much with us, even in a place with resources like San Francisco,” Sen. Wiener explains. “It’s still not always easy enough for people to access the resources that they need.” Sen. Wiener knows these resources well and is himself an open user of PrEP. He publicly announced that he was taking PrEP in 2014. “When I announced I was using PrEP, a lot of people told me they hadn’t heard of it… others said that they were using it and afraid of telling people about it.” This lack of knowledge about available resources and fear of spreading awareness about them is a major barrier to widespread prevention.

Not everyone is comfortable bringing up HIV prevention with a doctor and not everyone knows about available resources. S.B. 339 aims to both raise awareness and create new avenues for accessing PrEP. “Everyone has a different experience and a different life,” Sen. Wiener says about the need for bills like S.B. 339. “The more options available, the better.”

Inspiring the Next Generation

Sen. Wiener encourages young activists to take action on the issues important to them. “Do your research and talk to people,” he offers as advice to the next generation of change-makers. “Find an organization that shares your values and work with them. If that doesn’t work, find another and don’t give up.”

Thank you, Sen. Wiener, for your time and for making a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS stigma and providing access to health equity for all.!

Learn more about S.B. 339 from The Hill: Article about S.B. 339 

Learn more about getting involved with organizations like the National AIDS Memorial: Get Involved

“Find an organization that shares your values and work with them. If that doesn’t work, find another and don’t give up.”

- Senator Scott Wiener

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