AIDS Walk Draws Record Numbers

AIDS WalkWEST HOLLYWOOD – More than 30,000 people took a record-breaking stroll through West Hollywood Sunday, in the largest turnout ever for the 22nd annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
Gray clouds did not dampen the spirit of participants who were amped up for the 6.2-mile walk, cheering on friends and each other as they made their way down Melrose Avenue. Others walked in silent remembrance of a loved one or a friend or of the millions of strangers worldwide who have died of AIDS-related illnesses.
“These days, we’re all focusing on the Iraq war and other issues and AIDS has taken last place,” said San Fernando Valley resident Maggie Schroyer. “I feel we need to revisit it.”
Organizers said more than $3.7 million was raised on Sunday, a record and at least $500,000 more than last year. Money raised will go toward AIDS Project Los Angeles, an umbrella agency that supports nonprofit organizations that provide medical and social services to those with the disease.
“We had an extraordinary event,” said Craig Miller, organizer and founder of AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
“I think it had to do with our message this year,” he said. “We really focused on poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia as it relates to AIDS and I believe
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it resonated with people.”
Braulio and Madeline Garcia of Hollywood brought 10 members of their family for the walk. Together, they made up what they call the Locomotion Gang, and have participated for the last 15 years.
They walk in memory of Braulio’s brother Bernard, who was 27 when he died and whose photograph is seen on the back of each family members’ T-shirt.
“I think people are realizing more that (AIDS) is not centralized to one group,” Garcia said. “It’s affecting the youth, the kids now.”
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s first reports of AIDS. The CDC estimates that AIDS and HIV affects more than 57,000 people in Los Angeles County. Since the first AIDS Walk Los Angeles in 1985, more than $52 million for AIDS programs, advocacy and prevention has been raised, organizers said.
Los Angeles resident Bessie Novos has participated in the walk for the last 20 years. Originally from South Africa, she has seen firsthand how a people become divided for one reason or another.
“People are entitled to receive medical help,” Novos said. “I think there’s a lot of progress being made, but still, when you tell people you support people with AIDS, there are some who turn away. There is still work to be done.”
from The LA Daily News

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