Leaders of Change
BY Advocate.com Editors
August 13 2013 5:00 AM ET
Mike Mike Smith
Executive Director, AIDS Emergency Fund
For more than 20 years the AIDS Emergency Fund has been providing financial assistance to those who have been impoverished by their battle with HIV or AIDS. The organization was originally founded in 1982, after a group of San Franciscans came together to pay the bills of their friends who had become too sick to work as a result of the disease.
Today, the organization has become one of the largest of its kind in the Bay Area. However, providing financial assistance to those who have become medically disabled by HIV isn’t something the group can tackle alone, and Mike Smith, the fund’s executive director for the past 11 years. is quick to point out that the smallest of donations can make a big difference for those in poverty because of the disease. “AIDS Emergency Fund’s 2,200 clients are all medically disabled by HIV/AIDS and trying to get by in San Francisco on less than $1,000 a month” Smith says. “Think through the many little luxuries we all take for granted: a cup of coffee, the delivered newspaper, cable TV. Cut back or give it up just one day a week and set the funds aside for AEF.”
Though the obstacles facing the AIDS Emergency Fund can sometimes seem daunting, Smith says seeing the difference the organization makes continually renews his dedication to the cause. “In February a new building of subsidized housing was completed in San Francisco. By paying for first month’s rent, security deposits and move-in household items, we were able to place 23 long-term HIV/AIDS survivors in stable, affordable housing where they will be warm and safe for as long as they live.”