The SF HIV/AIDS prevention community is mourning the loss of 33-year-old Melanie Woods, a staple at fundraisers and events, who spent nearly three years organizing those events for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

If you attended any San Francisco HIV/AIDS fundraising events like the AIDS Walk, AIDS/LifeCycle, or the Santa Skivvies Run between 2015 and 2018, there is a good chance that you encountered Melanie Woods. A Sacaramento native and UCLA grad, she served as an events associate, and eventually associate director of events for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation during that time. Woods then went on to obtain a Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University in New York.

But the New York Post reports that Woods was stabbed and killed this week in her own apartment. She was 33.

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“Melanie Woods had more charisma than she knew what to do with,” her one-time SF AIDS Foundation colleague Michael Donofrio tells SFist. “There was no such thing as a forgettable interaction with Melanie. Over the past day, I’ve had people reach out to me who only spoke with her once or twice and tell me how they were impacted and inspired by her. She was outspoken and consistently stood up for what she believed. She inspired change for good in the spaces where she existed. She was someone who knew how to effectively pull people in and get them engaged and excited about the things for which she cared."

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Donofrio continues, “She was extraordinarily expressive with her facial expressions and body language and if you knew her well, you often knew what she was thinking without her saying a word. She presented herself as fearless. She worked hard for others because she thrived in service. The impact she had on the public health community in San Francisco rippled far beyond what you would expect from one single person, but her energy far exceeded those around her and she chose to channel it for good. She is loved by so many and will be missed dearly. The world simply isn’t the same without her in it.”

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Her family said in a statement that “To know Melanie was to love her. Melanie was a lover of traveling, a best friend to many, an adventure seeker, a loving dog mom, she was someone who always rooted for the underdog and loved to see people thrive and succeed. She was a vibrant soul who brought out the best in anyone around her, this we will never forget. In this difficult time we are left to remember the wonderful times and memories. By holding onto these memories we can all remember her in our own way.”

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Woods was found dead in her East Harlem apartment at about 6 pm Tuesday night, with multiple stab wounds and a slash to her neck. Police and firefighters performed a welfare check after she did not board a plane to California that she was scheduled to be on, and a friend traced her phone’s location back to her apartment.

New York City police have arrested her ex-boyfriend, 51-year-old Candido Rodriguez, on charges of first-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

Melanie Woods’s family has set up a GoFundMe to cover the costs of her cremation, and to retrieve her belongings from New York City. “It's hard to say goodbye to someone who had a big impact on our lives,” they say on that page. “It's always hard to lose someone you know, to let go of Melanie, and move on. But if we keep those good memories in our hearts and minds, we can find comfort and Melanie will always be with us.”

Related: Pioneering SF Gay Activist Ken Jones Dies at 70 [SFist]

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