Since early January, folks have been creating or joining walk teams and soliciting donations for AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH), the nonprofit that hosts Houston’s annual AIDS Walk. This year’s goal for the March 5 event is $300,000—money that will be well spent in our community.
For 40 years now, AFH has been de-stigmatizing HIV/AIDS as it offers testing, treatment, PrEP care, and support services to thousands. In 2021, AFH conducted 1,178 HIV tests, aided 319 clients with affordable housing, and helped 682 clients obtain food through its Stone Soup Food Pantry.
“The Walk to End HIV is important to raise community awareness that the HIV epidemic is not over, but also to let people know that we have more resources than ever to prevent acquiring HIV and to treat it successfully,” says AIDS Foundation Houston CEO John Huckaby. “What’s great about the Walk is that it truly is a community fundraiser that raises critical dollars to support the good work being done by several organizations throughout the greater Houston area.”
Funds raised this year will benefit several local nonprofits, including The Truth Project, Inc., Lazarus House, Avenue 360, The Normal Anomaly Initiative, and Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social (FLAS)—a group that provides education, HIV/STD counseling and testing, and treatment referrals for Latinos affected by HIV/AIDS. FLAS supporters have been participating in the annual walk for the past seven years.
“For me, the walk is to let the community know we must continue to fight, decrease the stigma, and end the HIV epidemic in Houston,” says Elia Chino, the founder and executive director of FLAS. “We must screen more people in Houston for HIV.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV testing has sharply decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, prompting an urgent push to increase testing. Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., ranks ninth in the nation for newly reported HIV diagnoses, according to a recent report from Brown University’s School of Public Health.
Houston also lags behind other cities in the percentage of people who remain in HIV care and achieve viral suppression.
More than 3,000 Houstonians are expected to participate in the non-competitive 5K walk to remember and honor those affected by HIV/AIDS, and to celebrate the advances in treatment that successfully control HIV.
The 2023 AIDS Walk check-in begins at 9:00 a.m. on January 5, with the opening ceremony beginning at 10:00 a.m. at Sam Houston Park downtown. The Walk kicks off at 10:30 a.m., followed by a party in the park from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. where walkers can enjoy bites and beverages from favorite local vendors, fun prizes, music, outdoor activities, and photo opportunities.
Chino has some good advice for fellow walkers on her FLAS team: “Wear sneakers, and bring water! I always prepare sandwiches and breakfast tacos for our team to eat before we start.” Sounds like her FLAS team would be a good one to join, although every team (and many individual walkers) will be glad they participated in the fight to end HIV/AIDS in Houston.
What: AFH’s 2023 Walk to End HIV
When: March 5, 9:00 a.m.
Where: Downtown Houston’s Sam Houston Park