By Jesse Brooks
More than 25,000 people turned out last Sunday to raise $3million and mark the 25th annual AIDS Walk in San Francisco (AWSF). This year also marks 30 years of HIV in the U.S. and the walk was a reminder that the battle is not over, and we have to keep pressing on until there is a cure. Currently in the U.S. 1.1 million people are living with HIV or AIDS.
Since 1987, AWSF has been Northern California’s largest fundraiser and has raised more than $70 million for HIV/AIDS programs and services. On the historical first walk 6,000 people participated and raised $667,000. The 2007 AWSF set a record, raising $ 4.5 million.
Sunday’s ceremony featured many stars, including Cloris Leachman, TV personalities and news anchor Dan Ashley (ABC 7), Mayor Ed Lee, State Senator Mark Leno, and the founder of the walk, Craig Miller.
Miller said “by showing up through the years the walks declare that we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We recognize then, as we do now, that each of us has a responsibility to look out for one another, to stand with each other, and raise each other up.”
Miller also said, “It is the social diseases which stem from racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty that continue to fuel the disease.” He agreed with Neil Giuliano who said the disease could be halted with “testing, and ensuring access to medications and good care to all that need it. It’s not a question of whether we can we do it, but a question of, as a society will we do it.”
On that beautiful breathtaking day, we were treated by “The Dime”, a hip hop/soul group who performed. And at another interval, a band complete with tubas, played on. Then there was a troupe of belly dancers who performed to The Black Eyed Peas’, “I Got A Feeling”.
Youth and elderly walkers, with their walker aides, completed the journey. As I observed the energetic youth making great strides, I reflected on my 1993 walk for my brother who died that year. Others were walking for their loved ones as well. There was a sense of hope in the air for people living with the disease as it continues to thrive on the margins and disproportionately impact people of color.
With sore feet and a revived spirit, I was glad I walked and talked with all who shared the common goal, the common purpose of eradicating the scourge of HIV/AIDS.