Our History


Health Initiatives for Youth is a multicultural organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of underserved young people through innovative youth leadership, popular education and advocacy, in pursuit of multi-level social change.



In 1992 a team of health care and youth service professionals in response to the immediate need for HIV prevention, treatment, and care for young people in San Francisco founded HIFY, a first-of-its-kind organization. Some of our achievements from the 1990s include: creating two celebrated youth publications (including a resource manual) for youth living with HIV, offering four HIV-specific trainings for youth service providers, and developing an HIV-positive speaker’s bureau to help educate young people about the disease.

Around the turn of the century, HIFY began to look at the bigger picture of the lives of young people, as well as the supports and opportunities available to them. We now view HIV and health from a more holistic point of view, addressing many of the co-factors that put people at greater risk for infection. Because HIV is one of a broad matrix of interconnected health issues confronting youth, we have expanded our services to address more risks to healthy development faced by young men and women; including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. In the process, we have acquired a wealth of experience on how best to serve a richly diverse community of young people.


The “purple hand” you can see in HIFY’s logo, was an early symbol of the gay liberation movement and an effort to show resilience in the face of anti-gay attacks.

The term originates from Oct 31st 1969 [Halloween night]. Members of Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Society for Individual Rights (SIR) gathered outside the San Francisco Examiner building to protest anti-gay articles that had been running in the daily. Like other periodicals around the country, the paper had a policy of printing the names and addresses of men arrested in gay bar raids or even in tearooms, bathrooms where gay men sometimes had sex. When employees on the roof spilled purple printer’s ink down onto the demonstrators, the queer radicals used it to scrawl “Gay Power” and other slogans on the wall. They also left imprints of their hands on the surrounding buildings, thus giving rise to what became known as “Friday of the Purple Hand.”

purplehands Purple Hands @ HIFY’s office

According to Larry LittleJohn, then president of SIR, “At that point, the tactical squad arrived – not to get the employees who dumped the ink, but to arrest the demonstrators who were the victims. The police could have surrounded the Examiner building…but, no, they went after the gays…Somebody could have been hurt if that ink had gotten into their eyes, but the police came racing in with their clubs swinging, knocking people to the ground. It was unbelievable.”


All of our work is done in partnership with other community members. We bring our work to community centers, schools, clinics, and afterschool programs who are working daily with youth. Some of our key partners are listed below:

Dimensions Clinic for Queer and Questioning Youth
at Castro Mission Health Center
An open and friendly place to get support in being healthy. We offer low cost health services for Queer, Transgender, and Questioning youth ages 12-25. www.dimensionsclinic.org

Edgewood Center for Children and Families
Strengthening children, youth, families and their communities through service, training, advocacy, and research.

Edgewood Kinship Support Network
Edgewood believes that children should first be supported in the homes of their relatives and remain in their communities. Edgewood Kinship fills the gaps in public social service available to relative caregivers and was the first program of it’s kind.www.edgewood.org/whatwedo/kinship/

San Francisco Wellness Initiative- Youth Outreach Workers
A collaborative effort to support SFUSD student wellbeing through on campus programming and community based partnerships.

The Harm Reduction Therapy Center
Dedicated to providing alternative treatment to people with drug and alcohol problems.

San Francisco Youth Guidance Center- Special Programs for Youth
Provides health care services specifically designed for youth in San Francisco’s Youth Guidance and Log Cabin Ranch Juvenile Correction Centers.

Expect Respect San Francisco
A collaborative of San Francisco Domestic and Sexual Violence programs working to promote healthy and violence free dating among all youth for youth centered, culturally sensitive education.

San Francisco State University
A pioneering university with a committment to community and civic engagement.