Grab your most vibrant walking or running outfit and join AIDS Project Rhode Island (APRI) Saturday, June 1, for the 33rd annual AIDS Run/Walk for Life. Registration is now open at www.aidswalkforlife.org.
This year’s colorful event will kick off from the Roger Williams Park Carousel and take walkers and runners on a gorgeous 5K tour of the park while raising critically needed funds to help Rhode Islanders living with HIV/AIDS.
This year’s Run/Walk for Life also unofficially kicks off LGBTQ Pride Month and takes place just two weeks before Rhode Island Pride. In addition, June 2019 marks the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall riots, which ushered in the modern-day fight for LGBTQ equal rights. With these events in mind, the theme for this year’s Run/Walk is “Stride for Pride & Show Your True Colors” and encourages participants to show up in their most colorful, eye-catching, and fabulous creations—all in the name of uniting the community and helping those affected by and living with HIV.
“The Run/Walk for Life has always been APRI’s largest fundraising event and helps ensure we can continue to provide care to the thousands of individuals living with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Rhode Island,” APRI Director Mikel Wadewitz says in a press release. “This year, in particular, we are facing substantial funding cuts that might have drastic consequences for our clients, including the elimination of some programs. While we’re very serious about finding ways to raise that money, we also wanted to host an event that is fun for those who are participating.”
Public support for the Run/Walk for Life through fundraising helps APRI sustain programs such as its food pantry and hot meal program, emergency financial assistance, and housing support. It also helps the organization’s education efforts that fight the stigma and discrimination people living with HIV still face every day. These are programs and services that are currently threatened due to massive state budget cuts to HIV/AIDS service organizations. Without adequate funding from the Run/Walk and other sources, APRI we will be forced to do the unthinkable—cut back or eliminate programs on which our most vulnerable clients rely.
According to the RI Department of Health, about 2,700 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in the Ocean State, and HIV continues to disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, particularly young gay and bisexual men and women of color. On a brighter note, many tools exist that can help make getting to zero new HIV infections a reality. Rhode Island recently signed on as an official partner with the “Undetectable = Untransmittable” campaign, which educates the public that a person with HIV who is on medication and achieves an undetectable viral level cannot pass the virus to a partner. In addition, tools such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) are up to 99% effective in preventing HIV transmission in HIV-negative individuals.
APRI will be offering free HIV and hepatitis C testing the day of the event and several other community-based organizations will be part of the activities. Prizes will be awarded to top runners, top fundraisers, as well as those with the most dazzling costumes. An official after-party Saturday night will also be announced soon.