In February 2001, the Student Global AIDS Campaign was founded by students at Harvard and the Kennedy School of Government who saw the untapped potential of students to advocate political and social change on global HIV and AIDS and other issues of health justice. Global Justice, SGAC's first parent organization, became officially incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) organization, with the Student Global AIDS Campaign as its first campaign.
The first conference was a New England regional conference hosted by Harvard University in the fall of 2001. In the next year, regional conferences were also held at Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Williams College. In the spring of 2003, SGAC organized its first national conference (hosted by George Washington University), which was attended by more than 500 students from around the country.
As SGAC’s chapter base has grown, so has its capacity for effective advocacy. SGAC’s first large rally was held in Boston in the spring of 2002 to demand that Senator John Kerry (who had declared himself the Senate AIDS leader) significantly increase the amount of funding for the Global Fund in the bill he was then writing. In 2005, SGAC organized the largest AIDS mobilization in nearly a decade, dubbed the "Student March Against AIDS", which drew over 5,000 people to Washington, DC to demand Universal Access to AIDS treatment, prevention and care. In 2007, SGAC won its campaign to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) at $48 billion for the following five years.
In 2010 and 2011, SGAC and its partner organization, Health GAP, made international headlines with campaigns to protest Congress' proposed $1.5 billion cut to global health funding, and to pressure President Obama for a commitment to put 6 million people on lifesaving HIV treatment by 2013. Both campaigns were successful.
In summer 2012, SGAC was instrumental in planning the We Can End AIDS Mobilization in Washington, D.C. during the International AIDS Conference, which brought 10,000 people to the streets of D.C. SGAC coordinated the mobilization of youth for the march, and organized a “Youth Activist” program at the conference leading up to the march. During the AIDS conference, we organized protests directed at major political figures and decision makers including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and the Australian Minister of Health.
Most recently, for the 2016 presidential election cycle, SGAC was hitting the campaign trail hard and asking direct questions to Democratic and Republican candidates about fully funding PEPFAR and The Global Fund to achieve 30 million people on treatment by 2020. The commitments gained led to influencing the platforms for both Clinton and Sanders.
SGAC has continued to fight every year to increase funding for global AIDS programs, push back against attacks on global access to affordable medications, and ensure the best policies for people living with HIV.
SGAC is led by students and young people, and has member chapters across the United States.