October 23, 2012
On October 27, more than 1,000 people are expected to participate in the 20th AIDS Walk El Paso. This year's 5K walk and pet walk at Cohen Stadium is called "Band Together Walk Together." AIDS Walk El Paso is the largest public awareness event and fundraiser for HIV/AIDS in El Paso. The organization International AIDS Empowerment will use the money raised from the walk for the HIV/AIDS testing, case management, prevention and education, medical services, clothing, a food pantry, housing, utility services, and outreach and prevention programs that it directly coordinates.
Jae Salinas, a peer counselor with International AIDS Empowerment, will be marching on October 27. He has been living with AIDS for half of his life. He was given very little hope at the time of his diagnosis, but since that day 20 years ago, his goal has been to promote a better understanding of HIV and AIDS. "Once I got diagnosed, my thing was to help people get informed," said Salinas.
According to International AIDS Empowerment, there are about 1,800 reported cases of HIV or AIDs in El Paso, and the number of unreported, untested people could range from 7,000 to 10,000. Ogechika Alozie, an assistant professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and an infectious disease physician at University Medical Center, explains, "The biggest burden of HIV now is 18- to 25-year-old Hispanic men having sex with other men. My guess is 80 percent of the 1,800 [reported cases] are Hispanic. In our clinic, it's 90 percent (Hispanic)." Alozie, who is also on the International AIDS Empowerment board of directors, added that advocates must educate the younger population about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 1.2 million people in the United States with an HIV infection, and one in five persons infected with HIV does not realize it.