Cliff Morrison

Morrison has spent over 45 years in the healthcare industry.  The Florida native whose accreditations include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a MBA/MPH in Healthcare Management, and a MS in Community & Mental Health Nursing & Education, began working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist at San Francisco General Hospital in 1980.  Morrison was soon promoted to Forensic Psychiatry Program Director. It was while serving in this position, that Morrison came to be aware of the influx of hospital patients suddenly presenting with deathly auto-immune disorders of an unknown etiology.

As the number of patients’ rose, so did the attending fear – from both the public and within the medical community.  To Morrison’s dismay, patients were being effectively quarantined as they lay dying in hospital beds. Frustrated and angry at the lack of care and humanity victims were receiving, Morrison took it upon himself to create the world’s first Special Care Unit for persons with HIV/AIDS, Ward 5B.

As the result of the work and Unit Morrison co-developed with his all-volunteer nursing staff, Ward 5B became globally recognized and studied, ultimately becoming the adopted standard of care around the world.  

Following his work at San Francisco General, Morrison served as a Professor, as well as an Assistant Dean of Nursing at USF, among other Bay Area educational institutions.  He has been internationally recognized by AMFAR, twice been named Nurse of the Year, and is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.  

Today, Morrison manages an in-patient program in the Bay Area for the Developmentally Disabled and those suffering from mental illness.

Alison Moed

The NY native earned her nursing degree in New York, spending five years working as a nurse at the New York VA.  She relocated to the Bay Area in 1979, becoming one of San Francisco General’s first per diem nurses. As a per diem nurse, many of the patients Moed was tasked to treat were those that had been neglected by hospital staff or considered undesirable – a good number of whom were dying from the disease which came to be known as AIDS.  When Moed heard that a ward was being built to specifically care for those afflicted, she immediately volunteered. These were, in effect, her patients already, and the ward represented the type of work which inspired her to originally pursue a career in medicine. She was hired, becoming one of the original 12 nurses who launched the unit.  

Moed subsequently became 5B’s Nurse Manager.  After seven years on the unit, Moed left to obtain a  graduate degree. Her ongoing commitment to public health ultimately inspired her to return to San Francisco General where she became Director of Risk Management, until she retired.  

Within weeks of retirement, Moed found herself returning to her nursing roots. She spent several years caring for her ailing mother during the last years of her mother’s life, a fact for which she is incredibly honored.  Today, Moed, who still resides in Northern California, travels to Morocco volunteering for a non-profit that provides shelter and an education to rural Moroccan girls.

Rita Rockett

San Francisco LGBT activist and Castro denizen, Rita Rockett was introduced to Ward 5B while visiting a close friend who’d been hospitalized, but she quickly and unfortunately recognized a sea of faces.  She felt instantly compelled to act. Inspired by the patients and the work the nurses were doing, she solicited permission to take the then radical step of holding a holiday party in their honor. Though her friend didn’t live long enough to attend, the overwhelming gratitude and joy it inspired within the ward propelled her to enlist a team of volunteers who hosted and brought in weekly brunches and entertainment for 18 years.  During that period, Rockett gave birth to two happy and healthy boys. She went on to become nationally recognized for her advocacy, with the City of San Francisco naming a day in her honor. She currently resides in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio where she volunteers for various LGBT groups.

George Kelly

Born in Galveston, George Kelly was an honor student in his junior year at the University of Texas when he became HIV+.  Kelly would not discover that information until he was 24, when the first blood test became available to ascertain the presence of the virus. At that point, he was told that he had “6 months to 2 years to live. Make your peace with God and stay close to your family.”  The diagnosis was a death sentence.

Kelly dropped out of college, maxed out his credit, and moved away from his family to spare them his inevitable decline. He’d already witnessed two close friends die so knew what his loved ones could expect.  Kelly eventually relocated to Albuquerque, where he worked as a fine dining waiter in Hilton Hotels. During this period, he frequently traveled to San Francisco where he became involved in an HIV health care clinic and in an HIV support group.  Kelly also started taking AZT, the first and only medically approved drug for treatment of the virus.  

Aware that to have any fighting chance at survival Kelly needed to be close to people like himself, he fought for a transfer from Hilton to a San Francisco Property. Kelly moved to the Bay Area in 1989 and took up residency with two friends who were also HIV+.  He also started volunteering to help those affected by the epidemic. However, despite his best efforts, Kelly’s health continued to fail, and in 1992 he was diagnosed with AIDS. The end was near.

Fortunately, as Kelly’s health rapidly deteriorated, medical treatments contemporaneously improved. He was able to survive long enough to get access to the HIV Cocktail.  Kelly  responded well, and his health miraculously turned.  It was a gift…a gift which came too late for many of his friends.

Today, to say Kelly is a survivor, is an understatement. In 1998, he ran the first of 7 marathons.  Kelly became a volunteer and then an employee, at Kaiser, leading HIV empowerment workshops for nearly 20 years. He also spent two decades donating his time to the San Francisco Unified School District, helping first graders learn to read and write.  In addition, Kelly is the founder of a community volunteer program at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and Project INSCRIBE, a sidewalk art project in which members of the public can add the names of loved ones who’ve died of AIDS.  Kelly is the recipient of a Jefferson Award, a Point of Light Award, and was named Volunteer of the Year by SFUSD in 2009. Kelly continues to live a a happy and full life in San Francisco with longtime partner Harry Breaux.  He remains an active member of the HIV community.

Harry Breaux

The Louisiana native never felt totally at ease growing up in the Bayou.  As such, he eventually wandered west, ending up on an Oregon commune in the 1970’s. It was there that Breaux first heard about the freedoms members of the gay community were enjoying in the City of San Francisco. He relocated, and for the first time, felt like he’d found the mother ship. The city and period were beautiful, carefree, and at times, tumultuous and dark (RIP Harvey Milk).

And then suddenly, in the 1980’s, Breaux’s life, and the lives of many around him, drastically changed.  It was the era of AIDS, and all it brought with it…the shame, the compassion, the shock, the laughter, the defiance, the music, the anger, the courage, the tears, the healing, the pain, the liaisons, the confusion, the ecstatic moments, the betrayal, the peace, the memorials, the heart, and 5B.  During that time, Breaux had “the privilege” of visiting and witnessing the miracles taking place at San Francisco General Hospital. It was the first time in a long time, he’d seen his newly dying friends and loved ones treated with acceptance, compassion and love. Breaux is honored to have been able to see the impact “the angels of 5B” had on the community and people he loves so much.

In 2018, Breaux left his career to pursue volunteering full-time as an advocate for various social and civil rights causes.  He continues to call the Bay Area home, where he plays with his friend George.

Hank Plante

Henry A. “Hank” Plante is an American television reporter and newspaper columnist. He is on-air at NBC Palm Springs and he is a member of the Editorial Board of Gannett’s Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs. Winner of the George Foster Peabody Award and multiple Emmys, he covered California for three decades for TV stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He now writes occasional columns for newspapers in California, usually focusing on politics or gay and lesbian issues. One of the first openly gay TV reporters in the United States, Plante is the recipient of various honors from LGBT rights advocacy organizations and trade groups.

Guy Vandenberg

Since 1985, Vandenberg has worked as an activist, clinician, and director of programs providing services for injection drug users, sex workers, incarcerated persons and homeless people living with HIV.  The former 5B nurse, has also worked as a consultant for HIV care in prisons and jails across the USA, and spent ten years providing training and technical assistance with the rollout of antiretroviral treatment in Eastern and Southern Africa, focusing primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of infants and children. Currently Vandenberg  works at UCSF’s HIV Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, Ward 86, where he provides care coordination, triage & urgent care, conducts a monthly Reproductive Health Clinic for individuals and couples affected by HIV, and facilitates the clinic’s Opiate Prescribing & Pain Management Committee.

Steve Williams

Williams was born in New York City and attended college in Hartford, Connecticut before moving back to NYC. He briefly worked for the STD branch of New York City’s Public Health Department. In the late 1980’s, he worked for Pan American airlines and soon rose to coordinate military and group travel for the Eastern Seaboard. In 1991, Williams, relocated to the Bay Area to study computer-assisted drafting and architecture. He  later provided technical support for architectural companies and conducted environmental impact studies for major projects.

In 1999, Williams was diagnosed with AIDS and spinal tuberculosis and was hospitalized at San Francisco General Hospital.  He was comatose for two months and almost died, but thanks to medical advances in the treatment of HIV, over the course of the next several months, Williams made a complete recovery!  From 2000 to 2005, Williams studied photography and journalism, and in 2005 he joined the ASPIRE program of UCSF to provide HIV peer education in Tanzania and South Africa. The program concluded in 2014.  Today, Williams is pursuing a career in psychology and continues to work as a peer educator, political activist and community organizer.

Sasha Cuttler

5B Nurse and civil/social activist Sasha Cuttler has worked in the San Francisco Department of Public Health off and on since 1987.  Cuttler, who holds a PhD in Nursing, was attracted to that Unit in particular because of the nurses’ emphasis on treating LGBTQ patients and staff with dignity and equality. Cuttler is still a practicing nurse at San Francisco General and also hasn’t stopped crusading.  Among the current causes Cuttler is advocating for: actively working to protect immigrants’ rights to medical care, ensuring all people have access to affordable healthcare, and advocating for nurses’ rights and safety within the workplace.  In addition, Cuttler currently serves as the RN Chair for Services Employees International Union Local 1021.