A large group of LS&Co. employee volunteers pose in matching Aids Walk 2019 shirts in front of a sign reading "Aids Walk San Francisco." In front of them is a large sign of the Levi's® pride logo with rainbow coloring.


Celebrating Our AIDS Action Group’s Legacy

Levi Strauss & Co.
February 21, 2024

We have many examples throughout Levi Strauss & Co.’s history of our employees taking a stand and advocating for equality. Only one, however, has been a mainstay of our San Francisco headquarters for nearly 40 years: our AIDS Action Group (AAG).

As a San Francisco-based company, LS&Co. watched the HIV/AIDs crisis unfold in real time, affecting our local community and our own employees. That’s why in 1982 LS&Co.’s then-COO and soon-to-be-CEO Bob Haas and other company leaders joined employees in passing out leaflets at our headquarters to raise awareness and help educate employees about the disease, breaking the silence around AIDS that was so common in corporate America at that time.

The AAG became an active part of this ongoing work. The group formed in 1988 to give employees an official way to come together and help coworkers living with HIV/AIDS, empowering each other to take action against the devastating disease. The AAG has worked nonstop ever since to support those living with HIV/AIDs, reduce stigma and support other community partners’ efforts to battle the epidemic, including Project Open Hand, AIDs LifeCycle and AIDS Walk San Francisco. They’ve dedicated countless volunteer hours to the cause, doing everything from cleaning up the San Francisco AIDS Memorial Grove and assembling harm reduction kits to organizing an array of fundraising events.

Six LS&Co. employees pose on stationary bikes wearing "Jean Genies" uniforms in the LS&Co. SF headquarters.

Over the past decades, hundreds of employees have participated in the group and helped raise over $1 million for dozens of community partners to support the cause. That’s in addition to the more than $85 million in grants LS&Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation have given to organizations addressing the HIV/AIDs crisis in the U.S. and in more than 40 countries around the world, highlighting the profound impact we can make when we use our voice — particularly when other companies were silent — to make a difference.

“We are so proud of our legacy of compassion, action and love, and are immensely grateful and appreciative of every single member who has contributed to the AAG,” said Maurice Kelly, co-chair of the AAG. “Our collective efforts, along with those of millions of others dedicated to the cause, have resulted in meaningful progress in this fight. While there is still much work to do, the goal of ‘reaching zero’ — zero new infections, zero deaths, zero stigma — now seems truly attainable.”

Tremendous progress has been made in the fight to end HIV/AIDs since the group first formed. While still a major issue in parts of the world, new incidences of HIV in the U.S. have dropped to a small fraction of what they once were, and access to anti-retroviral drugs has made it possible for most Americans living with HIV to live long, healthy lives. Potential cures are on the horizon.

It’s clear the fight in the U.S. has evolved. Now, the AAG is evolving as well.

Last month, the group announced it is ending its work as a standalone community involvement team within LS&Co. and will be moving under Inside Out, our LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, later this year. There it will operate as a program called the Red Ribbon Task Force and will be responsible for coordinating volunteer activities for LS&Co. employees, including the AIDS Walk, AIDS/LifeCycle and World AIDS Day fundraisers.

“The compassionate spirit that created the AAG decades ago is still very much alive at LS&Co. — that commitment will never change,” said Maurice. “We look forward to continuing our work of ‘getting to zero’ as part of the Inside Out ERG.”