June 19, 2011
The team arrived in Oceanside today and several members had a chance to watch some of the solo riders begin their arduous journey to the East Coast. These solo riders are incredible: they will ride their bicycles for hours on end, day and night, taking short sleep breaks, vying for victory that gives the winner nothing more than a title.
Many of the racers are riding for great causes: to bring awareness and to raise funds. Some are even riding for AIDS, though no other team has HIV-positive riders.
I laud their efforts and hope they bring awareness to their causes, just as we are trying to do.
HIV and AIDS are indeed a worldwide problem, and help is needed everywhere. But one would think that in the most powerful country in the world no one would have to be sick or die for lack of the proper treatment. But every day in the United States waiting lists for HIV medications continue to grow. Advocates from around the nation are pleading with President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to reprogram $25 million in unspent funds to the cash-strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
I'm not sure if that is even enough. I'm no expert on AIDS or its treatment; I'm just a crew member -- one of 12 -- who's supporting four riders, three of whom are HIV positive, to show that treatment DOES work. And even though our team is international -- one member is from Australia and another from Canada -- each racer knows that along with his determination and hard work, it is the medication the three HIV-positive members take that allows them to compete in this race.
It is criminal that in a country like the United States people are literally being given a death sentence if they cannot afford treatment for HIV and funds are not available to get them these life-saving drugs.
As Steven Berveling and I were watching the individual racers take off on their journey, we talked about our own race that will begin on Saturday. We are apprehensive, nervous and yes, even a little scared. But we also know that in some ways we have already won. Our message of hope is being heard far and wide and we aren't shy about telling everyone we meet what we are doing. If we can make at least a small difference in the fight against HIV and AIDS, we have indeed triumphed.
Tomorrow is another prep day. We get signage and lights for the van and more crew members arrive. The months of preparation and training are coming to a close. The real show will begin in just a couple more days. I think we're ready.