From May 31 through June 6, 2020 I'll be riding my bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles on AIDS/LifeCycle 2020.
After participating in California AIDS Ride 6, 7 and 8 between 1999 and 2001 I took a year off. I returned for AIDS/LifeCycle 2 and have been riding ever since because the cause is too important for me to skip any more years. I've been HIV-positive since the end of 1980 and I'm not getting any younger. I'd like to still be around to celebrate the end of AIDS and so I ride.
Since ALC 2019 marked my 20th ride I went big. I set my goal at $10,000. I'd raised just that much in 2018 and I was hoping it wasn't just a fluke. Thanks to the generosity of so many people I not only raised $10,000 again; I actually went far beyond that and finished up having raised $14,659.06. I was number 99 overall in fundraising and number 50 in Northern California. Of course that's important only because the more money I raise, the more people get helped.
When I registered for ALC 2020 I initially set my goal at $10,000 once again. But now that fundraising has started it's time for me to up my game. So I've re-set my goal at $15k. That's only $340.94 more than what I raised this past year and with a lot of help I think I can reach that goal.
There are many reasons why I ride. I was an adult when the AIDS epidemic began as nothing more than a rumor. My friends started getting diagnosed in 1981 and then they started dying. Having lived through the era when my community and the world were facing this incredible tragedy I cannot simply turn my back on it.
I tested positive for HIV in 1985. I was able, thanks to having been part of the Hepatitis B vaccine trial, to trace my infection back at least as far as the spring of 1981 and subsequently determined I was most likely infected at the beginning of December 1980. I am still here; so many people I cared for who also sero-converted at that time are not. I have to honor their memories and riding is the best way I know of doing that.
The ride community has now been in existence for 26 years. Through that time the community itself has experienced losses. In the early days and in fact until the early 2000s most of those loses were due to AIDS. I suppose it is a mark of progress that our more recent losses have been due to other causes. Long-time rider and member of the Positive Pedalers board Bill Henry passed in March 2014 from a stroke. And during that year's ride long-time rider Edna Flores passed away from a heart attack that she suffered on Day 4 of ALC. Mary Vencill, another long-time rider and training ride leader, lost her battle with cancer in July of 2017. In the weeks and months before ALC 2019 we lost long-time medical roadie Dawn Grimett to cancer. My friend and riding partner Jim Ernst was hit by a car on Christmas Eve of 2018. My fellow-training ride leader James Camus died suddenly of a heart attack just a few weeks before ALC 2019 began. Other members of our community have passed away in the last few years as well. Honoring these heroes who gave everything they could to combat this disease has now become one additional reason for riding.
Finally of course there is as yet no cure. Because there is treatment an increasing number of people live with HIV. Some, like me, have a decent income and adequate health care. Others are less fortunate. Those are the people who most desperately need the services I raise money for. I ride for them as well, and for those who will NOT contract HIV simply because the San Francisco AIDS Foundation is there for them.
From my first ride up to the start of the ALC 2019 fundraising season I've raised almost $140,000 so if even if I fall short of my goal this year I'll still almost certainly reach $150,000 by the end of May.
In 2016 I was selected to be a Media Spokesperson. The Media Team created a video of me which you can watch in the upper left corner of this page.
What will your donations do? Please consider the following:
- $50,000 can help a substance use counselor see 40 clients a year for harm reduction counseling, which integrates substance use, mental health, and HIV prevention and education.
- $25,000 can help a half-time peer advocate see 50 clients for a year enabling them get to their doctor appointments and assisting them with daily living activities.
- $15,000 can help 120 Magnet clients receive sexual health services, including HIV and STD tests, treatment, education and counseling.
- $10,000 can help us provide substance use counseling services for more than 250 clients in one month.
- $7,500 can help provide a nurse for one month to administer STI screenings and treatments to 100 Magnet clients.
- $5,000 can help keep our mobile testing unit rolling for one year so that 2,400 gay, bi and transmen can be tested and counseled.
- $2,500 can help four HIV-positive people receive safe and stable housing situations for one month.
- $1,000 can help provide two Positive Force community forums where 150 men can learn more about HIV and how to live better and longer with HIV.
- $500can help 15 people receive medical benefits counseling to obtain prescription drug assistance.
- $250 can help provide ten Rapid HIV Antibody test to test ten people at Magnet, and other foundation sites.
- $175 can help provide case management for 15 HIV-positive clients who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness.
- $150 can help provide 1,000 syringes through the street-based Syringe Access Service.
- $100 can help provide the travel cost for a Treatment Advocacy Coordinator to attend the medical appointments of 25 clients, providing moral support and to help clients advocate for themselves.
- $25 can help a Financial Benefits counselor to assist one person in navigating the private and public benefits systems, including Medi-Cal, Medicare, CARE/HIPP, short-term disability, and Social Security.
- $10 can help provide 143 condoms to our clients at all of our service sites.
I realize that none of the people I know are in a position to donate thousands of dollars but you all should be aware that no donation is too small not to make a measurable contribution to the fight against HIV and AIDS. So please give what you can and help me make a difference.