I'm Riding to End AIDS
From June 2-June 8, 2019, I'm bicycling in AIDS/LifeCycle 2019, a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to make a substantial positive impact in the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS. AIDS/LifeCycle 2019 will also be my 18th time riding much of the length of California to help in the fight against AIDS and HIV.
Why Do I Ride?
Having started training for my first ride in September of 2000, and between then and now having ridden over 86,000 miles in training, training others (leading up to three rides each week) and riding the event, as well as having been fortunate enough to be able to raise and donate over $78,000 to help save lives, the answer to the question, “Why do I ride?" never changes completely but gains new focus and clarity every year.
In 2001, I rode as a memorial and in tribute to my friend, mentor, hero, confidant and "older brother from another mother," Alvin McDuffie some 10 years after his death.
In 2019 I will ride ...
Because the stigma that still surround HIV and AIDS is one of the biggest obstacles to ending the pandemic! The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS has acted, and continues to act, as a significant individual and societal obstacle to eliminating HIV/AIDS as well as being a source of pain and hardship on a daily basis for individuals living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. That stigma is made up of three core components: stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Beyond the intrinsic damage created by prejudice and discrimination, and despite the recent nationwide gains made by the LGBT community, research has shown that stigma can delay or prevent people from seeking life-saving medical treatment. Given this troubling reality, what can be done to reduce and, eventually, eliminate stigma? Experts in the field of stigma reduction have identified three strategies that, individually or in concert, are effective in reducing stigma. Those three strategies are advocacy, education and contact.
Because these three strategies have been identified by peer-reviewed research as the most promising and effective methods to reduce stigma. Advocacy strategies strive to bring attention to and halt stigmatizing behaviors and practices. Education strategies attempt to provide accurate information and dispel myths about HIV/AIDS and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Contact strategies, which consist of interpersonal contact between members of the public at large and individuals with HIV/AIDS, have been shown to have the greatest and longest lasting effect on beliefs and attitudes.
Because one of the lessons I learned as a child during the Civil Rights Movement was that injustice is rarely defeated when the only voices raised against it are those of the aggrieved. The support of those who are not directly affected by the injustice must also be vocal and visible, and I believe that the stigma around HIV/AIDS is a profound form of injustice that harms and takes lives.
Because visibly and vocally supporting people living with HIV/AIDS strengthens contact strategies and helps reduce the stigma which stands in the way of defeating the implacable enemy which is HIV/AIDS!
I also ride…
Because I still, and will always, miss Alvin who was the shining example, drill sergeant, mentor, counselor, advisor, cheerleader and, most importantly, friend who helped me survive adolescence!
Because riding is a way to publicly and visibly remember and pay tribute to Alvin and so many others who have lost their lives to AIDS!
Because I will never forget the sight of my Mother, huddled in her great coat, head wrapped in a shawl, sitting on her balcony in a rocking chair, staring into the past, feeling the aching emptiness from and mourning the loss of her protégé in the dance world and surrogate son Alvin, whose ambition, talent, creativity and work ethic had taken him from dancing on the stages of the University of Michigan to dancing on the stages of Broadway!
Because I don't want to lose any of my friends currently living with HIV!
Because, when he was much younger than his present 32 years, I told my son that a warrior is someone who does whatever he or she can to help others in need, and I still believe that it’s rarely necessary to be a fighter but always imperative to be a warrior!
Because I remember a world without HIV/AIDS and while my son was born after the AIDS pandemic had begun, I hope that soon a new generation will be born for whom HIV/AIDS will only be known through history books!
Because “…[m]any have stopped caring about AIDS or have dropped their guard. New infections among young gay and bisexual men increased 22 percent from 2007 to 2010. The epidemic is spreading everywhere and now infects more women than men. No one is spared. Children make up more than 9 percent of the 35 million people infected with HIV. And last year, AIDS-related diseases killed 1.6 million people - the rough equivalent of killing every man, woman and child in a city twice the size of San Francisco." -Dr. Warner Greene, Interviewed on KQED Radio, November 29, 2013
Because AIDS is not over! There is a misconception that HIV and AIDS are no longer a problem. Today, while medications have come a long way, and people are living longer, healthier lives, more people than ever before, more than 33.3 million worldwide, are living with HIV and AIDS. In the United States, it is estimated that 21% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed!
Because 90% of U.S. teens 13-17 years old don't think they're at risk of contracting HIV!
Because every 9 1/2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.
Because the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center are engaged in projects to help people with HIV/AIDS not just in California but also around the world!
Because advances in medical treatment now allow people who are HIV positive to stay healthy and strong for many years, but only if they have access to treatments which are extremely expensive - The annual costs associated with medical care and treatment for a person with HIV are about $20,000. The minimum donation of $3,000 required to ride in AIDS/LifeCycle will only provide medication in a multiple drug regimen for one person for less than eight weeks! The Center's Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic provides that access, regardless of income, and can proudly boast that no one has been turned away, but can only continue to do so if funds cut or are otherwise unavailable due to political decisions can be raised. Private donations, such as the funds raised by AIDS/LifeCycle, can help to fill that hole in the budget so that the Goodman Clinic will not have to turn people away, leaving them with no other resort.
Because without treatment, many HIV patients still get sick and even die! Unfortunately, despite the passage of time since the beginning of the pandemic and the considerable gains made, continued funding for HIV treatment and research remains uncertain.
Because riding a bike 545 miles, in the company of another 2,499 or so like-minded individuals, has shown itself to be an excellent way to increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among participants, their donors and the general public!
Because, as a member of the National Board of Directors of Positive Pedalers, this is another way of living our mission of “eliminating stigma through our positive public example.”
Because I still can!
Where Does The Money Go?
The money donated to allow my participation in AIDS/LifeCycle 2019 will support the work of the Los Angeles LGBT Center's expansive and essential services for people living with HIV and AIDS. Those services include:
The work of the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic that offers people living with HIV/AIDS comprehensive free, or low-cost, primary and specialty medical care. The clinic's staff of HIV/AIDS specialists--including board-certified physicians, social services case managers, adherence counselors and a nutritionist--care for more than 2,700 people each year, most of whom have no other access to medical care.
The Center’s mental health programs through which the Center's staff of mental health professionals offer one-on-one and group therapy to help people struggling with HIV overcome substance abuse and addiction, adhere to difficult HIV drug regimens, improve self-esteem, survive the trauma of a new HIV diagnosis and manage other issues they may be facing. The program serves more than 1,600 people each year.
The Center's on-site pharmacy that serves those most in need, providing specialized drug therapy management. Each year, the pharmacy distributes more than 178,000 prescriptions.
HIV testing. The Center tests between 1,500 and 1,800 people for HIV each month and was one of the first in the nation to adopt rapid HIV testing. Those who test positive can be referred immediately to the Goodman Clinic or other Center programs for treatment or counseling. In addition to HIV testing, the Center provides comprehensive STD screenings and STD treatments, HPV and hepatitis A and B vaccinations, and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis to thousands of LGBT people every year.
The Center works to reduce the spread of HIV through myriad education and prevention services, including: WehoLife.org, a website featuring a variety of entertaining HIV prevention videos and links to resources at the Center to reduce the risk of infection for those who live or work in West Hollywood; Positive Images, a "live better program" for HIV-positive people; and the “I Know” campaign, which encourages young gay and bisexual men of color to get tested regularly and make informed decision about sex.
The Center’s renowned Clinical Research Program conducts research studies and clinical trials that contribute to scientific knowledge regarding the prevention, intervention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The research staff are vital community partners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, UCLA, USC, UCSF and other institutions worldwide.
Why You Should Give!
Because, even without a cure for AIDS, the pandemic can be stopped with adequate testing and treatment. If everyone knows their HIV status and everyone who is HIV positive is able to get and stay in treatment, the pandemic can be stopped in its tracks! This is one of the goals the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation have created innovative programs to work toward. Zero new infections is an achievable goal!
Because the Los Angeles LGBT Center has been a leader in battling AIDS and caring for those who are HIV-infected since the earliest days of the pandemic. In 1982 the Center founded the Southern California AIDS Hotline, which would later become AIDS Project Los Angeles. In 1985, the Center opened California's first HIV testing site. By 1986, the Center's Ed D. Edelman Health Clinic was the largest HIV clinic in the nation.
Because the only people who have any right to feel "AIDS Fatigue" are the people who are directly affected by HIV/AIDS!!!
Please help us raise the money that will allow the testing and treatment of everyone with HIV/AIDS. Please help us raise the money that will ensure that the Center's Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic will be able to continue to provide the services that remain so urgently needed. Please help us keep as many people as we can healthy, including the many friends that will be riding with me. Lives literally depend on all of us!
Please press the "Donate Now" button and, if you can, donate $15 per month for the next 10 months to support my 18th ride on AIDS/LifeCycle 2019! Every dollar counts!
Every $1, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 counts! Please listen to the better angels of your nature and give whatever you can! I will thank you; the Los Angeles LGBT Center will thank you and, most importantly, those people whose lives your dollars save will thank you!
Donate Now! It only takes a couple minutes and it's tax deductible!
We'll keep riding until AIDS and HIV are a thing of the past!
No donation is too small or too large and remember you can spread your tax deductible (at least for now) donation over several months so that your cash flow isn't hit too hard all at once!