Shanti Volunteers

Since 1974, Shanti has provided psychosocial peer support counseling to people with life-threatening illnesses and their loved ones in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, Shanti rose to the challenge by creating groundbreaking services for people living with AIDS/HIV. For much of the 1980s and 1990s Shanti was one of the largest AIDS organizations in the U.S.

As the AIDS crisis became an epidemic, hundreds of people came to Shanti to do something about the growing numbers of people they knew who were sick or dying. People with AIDS/HIV sought out Shanti for emotional support, a shoulder to cry on, a person to rage with, to have someone visit them in the hospital, to help them do their dishes, drive them to appointments, to meet other people with AIDS, to find housing. Often this interaction made a difference in the quality of the client’s life and in their day to day, if not hour by hour, needs and well-being.

Shanti was one of many organizations that made up The San Francisco Model of AIDS care, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, AIDS Health Project (now the Alliance Health Project), Project Open Hand, and PAWS (now a part of Shanti). With the introduction of life-extending treatments, the nature of HIV care changed. Shanti’s services did as well, and they now have services for low-income women living with cancer and LGBTQIA senior citizens and adults living with severe disablities.

The most significant contribution to Shanti’s longevity was the people in these photos that Judi Iranyi documented during their volunteer trainings. They, and those that volunteered after them, are the reason why this organization made the impact that it did during those bleak early decades of the AIDS epidemic. And continues to do almost fifty years later since Shanti’s founding.

–Brendan McHugh