To call her the most visible HIV-positive transgender woman in the U.S. would embarrass her, but Cecilia Chung, who serves on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, has earned every ounce of that national recognition for her advocacy on behalf of human rights, social justice, health equity, and LGBT equality.
“Cecilia is a fierce advocate for social justice, working in the intersecting fields of HIV, transgender rights, and health care,” says Christopher Roebuck, a medical anthropologist who teaches at Haverford College. “Her list of accomplishments are vast and growing. She has this unique and inspiring ability to link both local and global concerns in her work, both broadening and refining all our approaches to confronting HIV crises. She’s a fierce leader, inspiring role model, and powerful community organizer.”
Mark Misrok, president of the board of directors for National Working Positive Coalition, praises Chung for advocating on behalf of trans people, women, people living with HIV, sex workers, and those who have been victims of sexual and other violence while incarcerated. “Cecilia has been an indefatigable leader across communities,” he notes.
Chung is a San Francisco health commissioner (the first transgender woman appointed to the post), a senior strategist at the Transgender Law Center, and a past chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, where she was the first openly HIV-positive person and first trans woman and to hold that post.
“[Chung] developed a pioneering study of economic and employment status of transgender women of color in the San Francisco Bay area,” says Misrok, “and succeeded in following up on it to obtain funding to launch San Francisco’s groundbreaking transgender employment program.”
She’s equally committed to helping trans women fight HIV. “Cecilia has fought relentlessly to keep transgender women at the center of national and local HIV prevention and care strategies,” says the Sero Project’s Reed Vreeland. One such effort was her role as a consultant to the 2014 International AIDS Conference, for which Chung organized a satellite conference on transgender issues.
“What launched my own advocacy path was my desire to survive as a trans woman, an immigrant, and a person of color living with HIV,” Chung says. “I’m heartened to see the progress in HIV prevention and treatment but concerned that many inequities that make us vulnerable to HIV still exist today. Next time when you see or hear me, please keep in mind that there are hundreds and thousands of stories from other HIV-positive women waiting to be heard.”