Stephen Simon

Rock the Boat

By Dorothy Randall Gray

The battle against HIV/AIDS has had a mighty warrior in the indefatigable Stephen Simon. For more than eight years, he served as Los Angeles’ fifth AIDS Coordinator, a position responsible for the development, implementation, and oversight of the city’s HIV/AIDS policies and programs.
In that capacity, he was also a trusted advisor to the mayor and city council on HIV/AIDS and related
public health issues at the local, state, and federal levels. Highly regarded as an outstanding and dedicated leader,
Simon diligently protected the interests of LA residents and people living with HIV while serving as Associate Director at AIDS Proiect Los Angeles (APLA), one of California’s largest HIV/AIDS social services and prevention agencies. He was also a founding attorney of the HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance (HALSA).
“COVID has awakened us all to looking at a pandemic in a new way.
Ending AIDS is a real thing. We have to remind people that HIV/AIDS is disproportionately impacting these communities. It is still devastating the Black community. Our political systems must respond!”
His advocacy initiatives and efforts have not only had a local effect, but also a global one.
Perhaps inspired by parents who lived through the civil rights era, he is an ardent activist and political organizer for the Democratic Party and is President Emeritus of Stonewall Democrats.
In looking at the future of HIV/AIDS and the struggles our community faces now, Simon believes it is particularly important for the younger generation to be educated.
“Too often,” he says, “they are attacked for not knowing enough about the history of AIDS.
I think the young folks will be the ones who’ll make a difference. We need to do some bridge-building.
Each side has knowledge the other side needs. What we could use is some classic intergenerational programming-some storytelling and griot-level activities. Social activism is critical, but too many older people are missing the ability to communicate through social media.”
Simon, as Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability, works to ensure that all city programs, services, activities, and facilities were accessible to all Angelenos, and that Los Angeles would remain one of the world’s most accessible major cities. Most recently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commission appointed Simon as the agency’s new interim Executive Director.
“I find strength in true interactions with communities, and in my work in the bi and trans circles, and in helping the homeless reclaim their power.” he says.
Always the conscientious and passionate professional, Steven says, “Things have slowed down over time.
What I see now is a fundamental mistrust of politics, media, and policing. People just stand by and let things happen. LGBT rights are headed backwards. Democracy may be failing. We need to be out in the streets! I want to swing that pendulum back and rock the boat!”

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