Lace up those shoes and walk on
by Marene Gustin
San Francisco, once the epicenter of the national AIDS epidemic, is poised to become the first American city with a zero rate of new HIV transmissions. In 2013, the city recorded just 359 new cases, while Houston recorded more than 1,200 new cases that same year—twice the national average.
“The South is the new epicenter of new infections,” said Melody Patelis, chief development officer of AIDS Foundation Houston. “Houstonians need to realize this isn’t over yet—not here.”
That’s why events like this month’s AIDS Walk Houston are still so important—both to raise funds for the many local AIDS support organizations that provide programs for the 28,000 Houstonians living with HIV/AIDS, and also to help raise awareness that the disease is still not slowing down in the Bayou City. This year, the money raised benefits AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc.; Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinic; Bering Omega Community Services; Brentwood Community Foundation; Change Happens!; Crisis Intervention of Houston; Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social, Inc.; Lazarus House: A Center for Wellness; LIVE Consortium; Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church; and SNAP (Spay-Neuter Assistance Program).
AIDS Walk 2015 is Sunday, March 8. There are two major changes this year that you need to know about, one of which is a new start time.
“We have 6,000 to 10,000 people, depending on the weather,” Patelis said. “The last few years we’ve had rain in the morning, so this year we decided to change the start time to 1 p.m. and maybe avoid the showers.” Registration is at noon at downtown’s Sam Houston Park, and the walk starts an hour later. The 5K course runs along Allen Parkway and back.
Patelis is hoping to match last year’s goal of $600,000. “We have walkers of all ages,” she said, “some who have been walking since the beginning, 26 years ago. We have entire families that walk, some wearing T-shirts with the names of loved ones who have passed away. We have people pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs and on walkers.”
This year’s other change is the addition of a festival starting at 2 p.m. Houston’s five-piece show band Punch Bowl performs tunes from The Beatles to Bruno Mars, and there will be food trucks and beverage booths for AIDS Walk team participants and their friends.
“We want people to have more community time,” Patelis said. “The walk is fun, but we wanted a way to encourage interaction in a relaxed atmosphere where they can have fun and bond with others in the community.”
AIDS Foundation Houston is the oldest AIDS service organization in Texas. Founded in 1982, it offers programs to provide testing, support groups, housing, food, as well as prevention education counseling.
So this month, think about helping the community by organizing a team to walk and raise donations. Or at least donate to a team, or directly to AIDS Foundation Houston. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
AIDS Walk Houston
Sunday, March 8
Registration: noon at Sam Houston Park
Walk: 1 p.m.
Festival: 2 p.m.