This past Sunday I walked in the Philadelphia AIDS Walk. This is something that I have been committed to doing since I launched POZIAM in 2007. So this walk was my 4th AIDS Walk ever. The night before my team the Philadelphia Falcons had a scrimmage soccer game with the New York Ramblers at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. It was great to get out on a full field and play. We played for about 3 hours and had a blast with the Ramblers. I am only telling you about the scrimmage because you would think after playing soccer for 3 hours I would have no energy to walk 8.4 miles the following morning. Well nothing would of stopped me from walking. Not only does it help other living with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia but it is a great way to meet local ASO's and get some life saving information.
I got up early on Sunday, I am talking 6am. I took the train into the city with Greg, a fellow POZIAMer. The train ride down to the city we talked and shared stories. It was a great way to start the day of the AIDS walk. Once we arrived at the Philadelphia Art Museum, where the walk took place we met up with Robert, another POZIAMer and then headed over to the AIDS Quilt. They display panels of the AIDS Quilt every year at the walk. A panel is created in honor of a family member or loved one that have lost their battle with AIDS.
I love that they alternate the panels around the US so you get to see different ones every year. When I viewed the panels this year I did a lot of thinking. I asked myself a few questions in my head. -Would someone create a panel for me? What would it look like ? Who would create it? I instantly thought of a family member that passed of AIDS. A 2nd or 3rd cousin of mine. I believe I met him once or twice but I was just a little kid but, I don't really remember it at all. I wish I knew more about him. Maybe one day I will find the courage to ask my family more about him.
We started walking around 9am. The complete 8.4 mile walk took us about 2 1/2 hours. It was great to walk with Greg and Robert. We had some great discussions and laughed the whole way. It felt like I hanging with old friends and not 2 people I just met. The 3 of us just clicked. While we were walking and talking I discovered that we had a lot things in common in regards to our pasts. Good people make good conversations.
After the walk the 3 of us were interviewed by Logoabout living healthy with HIV. We had planned to do the interviews before the walk so we were all excited about it. We were interviewed by the beautiful Alesha Renee from BET and the fabulous Adam Abernathy, producer of Logotv.com's HIV+ME, was also producing these interviews. It is alway an honor to be apart of anything media wise that will promote awareness and education. I will do anything to help end the stigma surrounding people with HIV/AIDS. While on the walk I was also able to share the message of Dab the AIDS Bears with others and take some great photos.
Every year at the finish line Donna May is there to congratulate all the walkers. Every year I must take a photo with her. I wanted to personally thank all of the walkers,runner,volunteers and those who donated this past Sunday. The Philadelphia AIDS Walk raised over $350,000 for over 30,000 people in the Delaware Valley living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Facts About HIV/AIDS and Philadelphia
- Since 1981, over 600,000 Americans have died of AIDS.
- Every 9 1/2 minutes, someone in the U.S becomes infected with HIV.
- Approximately 20% of people infected with HIV do not know it.
- According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Philadelphians are being infected with HIV at a rate MORE THAN 50% higher than residents of New York City.
- The rate of infection in Philadelphia is FIVE times the national average.
- About half of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S are not receiving medical care.