LA AIDS Walk Reaches 30th Anniversary

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday October 10, 2014

October 12 marks the 30th anniversary of AIDS Walk Los Angeles, the nation's oldest annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser. Since 1985, the event has drawn more than a half-million participants who have raised nearly $75 million for APLA's public health programs. This year, Life Group LA is among the 20 local ASOs that will benefit from funds raised.

"Life Group is honored to have been chosen by APLA to be a community coalition team!" said The Life Group LA Executive Director Sunnie Rose Berger. "What that means is that they trust and value what we do for the community! The funds we raise as a team, APLA grant's back to us so that we can continue to provide services to our mutual community."??

The Life Group LA was founded in 2005 and provides education, empowerment and emotional support to persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS that they may make informed choices regarding their healthcare and personal well being.

Using a variety of methodologies such as peer support groups and the POZ Life Weekend Seminar, The Life Group LA creates educational and empowering experiences in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental environment.

In 1985, Craig Miller, along with Richard Zeichik, Leif Green, and a host of other determined organizers, created the world's first walk to fight an epidemic -- AIDS Walk Los Angeles.

To mark the AIDS Walk's 30th anniversary, Miller will author a small series of essays that reflect on the often not-pretty environment of the Reagan years, the challenges people in 1985 Los Angeles were facing from the new epidemic, and the urgency to act (and in some cases act up) to confront a crisis that, until then, had been met largely with silence.

Miller recalls that first walk, saying, "It was hot as hell, but no one complained. Not that day. Why not wait until summer's worst heat had passed? No one asked. Everybody knew."

"If you were gay (we hadn't yet invented the acronym 'LGBT'), you knew we couldn't wait. If you worked in the entertainment industry, you knew we couldn't wait. If you were outraged by the hate speech of Senator Jesse Helms, you knew. If you were enraged by President Ronald Reagan's silence, you knew. If you understood the world and the country and the time in which you were living, you knew," he wrote. "If you were at all paying attention, you knew that the time for waiting was over."
Although HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was, people are still getting HIV and still dying of AIDS. And committed organizations and individuals are still coming together to raise funds to fight it.

This year, West Hollywood's TEAM WICKED are marking their fifth year as Star Walkers, with Wicked Pictures performer and director Jessica Drake leading the charge, having raised more than $20,000 last year for local AIDS organizations.
"Having formed TEAM WICKED a couple of years ago for the AIDS Walk, I was very impressed with how everyone came together to raise so much money for a great cause," drake said. "Today I'm encouraging industry members to support TEAM WICKED and AIDS Walk as a show of unity and support for the community."

AIDS Walk Los Angeles is sponsored by AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). It is dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by HIV disease, reducing the incidence of HIV infection, and advocating for fair and effective HIV-related public policy. APLA provides care and HIV prevention services throughout Los Angeles. APLA extends to all areas in Los Angeles and has nine food pantries, two dental clinics, and mobile dental van and much more. Also, prevention education programs are an important part of communities they serve. They also provide bilingual direct care to those in need.

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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.