After his friend contracted HIV, David Centanni wanted to give back to the local organizations that have helped his friend survive.
Centanni participated in his first AIDS Walk Houston in 1999. Created by AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH), a non-profit that provides resources to people affected by HIV/AIDS, the annual walk raises funds for Houston-based HIV services—including the ones that saved Centanni’s friend.
“If assistance wasn’t there, I don’t know what my friend would have done,” Centanni admits. “Just having a support system and knowing the next steps were invaluable. Fundraising for the AIDS Walk helps Houstonians in so many ways just from knowing one’s status, to programs helps those affected with HIV/AIDS.”
Now, on Centanni’s 20th anniversary of fundraising for the AIDS Walk, he and his husband, Jonathan Harris, plan to raise $20,000 for the 2020 event. The 31st annual walk is 1.8 miles long and begins at 1 p.m. on March 1 in Sam Houston Park.
So far, Centanni and Harris have raised around $19,300. Individuals can help the couple reach their goal by donating online.
Centanni and Harris met through mutual friends. They fell in love, got married, and together have walked and fundraised for AIDS Walk for 17 years.
Much has changed since their first AIDS Walk event, Centanni says. As AIDS Walk fundraisers and ExxonMobil team members, he and Harris helped ExxonMobil become AIDS Walk’s top corporate team from 2014 to 2016, and again for the last two years.
While the married duo’s AIDS Walk fundraising totals have increased over the years, the same cannot be said about the number of people who walk at the event.
“Participation has decreased over the years because people are living much longer and the knowledge of HIV/AIDS and prevention has come so far,” Centanni says. “So, it’s kind of like a disease that people think doesn’t need attention, but it does.”
However, there is still a need for HIV-related services. “People need ways to get tested and avenues to obtain assistance without fear of discrimination, ” Centanni notes. “One way we can bring help to others that need it is through raising funds for the AIDS Walk.”
Because of this need, the pair intends to continue walking and raising funds to serve nearly 30,000 Houstonians impacted by HIV.
“The cure is not here yet,” Centanni says. “Until there is a cure, we’ll keep doing this.”