AIDS Walk Miami, a 5k walk-a-thon fundraiser benefiting Care Resource and the Food-for-Life-Network, marks its 30th anniversary this year on Sunday, April 22. The walk begins and ends at SoundScape Park, 400 17th St., in Miami Beach.
All funds raised from AIDS Walk Miami are used in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to help diverse communities in need with case management services, housing assistance, food assistance, counseling, prevention outreach/education and other support services. Care Resource offers free, confidential and rapid HIV/STI testing, PrEP linkage and client referrals to other available health services.
Rick Siclari, CEO at Care Resource, says AIDS Walk Miami is an important fundraiser that attracts thousands of participants who “walk for different reasons, but walk together for one common cause — to prevent new infections, maximize the health outcomes of those infected and to end the epidemic here in South Florida.”
“During this 30-year anniversary, we will walk in honor and memory of those we knew, loved and lost to HIV,” Siclari said. “With the progress that continues to be made, we are hopeful that sometime in our lifetime, God willing, there will be a cure.”
Though HIV/AIDS is now a manageable illness — with a host of medications allowing people to live longer, healthier lives — more than 40,000 people each year are still getting infected. Miami-Dade and Broward counties are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country for the number of new HIV and AIDS cases. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, who is serving as the Master of Ceremonies for AIDS Walk Miami, says that needs to change.
“We can all help make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past....This walk is a key part of that effort,” Gelber said. “It shows that our community is not only inclusive but also committed to helping those affected by HIV/AIDS and becoming better educated about the virus. Together we can truly change the course of this epidemic and get to zero new infections, zero deaths, and zero stigma.”
People living with HIV/AIDS require services that are funded by AIDS Walk Miami. Kishi Martin, a promotion outreach educator and peer navigator at Care Resource, said he was motivated to pursue a career in the field because he wanted to help and make a difference in his community.
“So many friends of mine have been diagnosed with HIV and STIs and we didn't have the knowledge or information necessary enough to protect us, especially those who are LGBT,” Martin said. “My mother lost a lot of friends to HIV in the 1980s and always had conversations about sexuality and sexual health.”
Martin said he supports the LGBT community — a portion of the population most affected by HIV — because he was bullied throughout his childhood and grew up wanting to feel accepted.
“I want to be among people who won't judge me for my sexuality,” Martin said. “I feel validated and empowered that I can be myself without hiding who I am and help others who are dealing with discrimination or lacking self-esteem.”
Jorge Bernal, television presenter for “La Voz Kids,” “Suelta La Sopa Telemundo” and NBC Universal, is serving as this year’s Grand Marshal for AIDS Walk Miami. He says participation in the walk is “critical to increasing awareness, fighting stigma and raising funds to support the most vulnerable people living with HIV/AIDS in South Florida.”
“Advances in treatment and new prevention strategies have now made ‘Getting to Zero’ — zero new infections, zero deaths, zero stigma — an achievable goal,” Bernal said. “Getting to zero still requires the efforts of everybody. Please join me on April 22nd and thousands of others that are committed to getting to zero by participating in AIDS Walk Miami.”
During the post-walk ceremony, attendees can enjoy a community health fair with a variety of activities for families and the community, including pet adoptions, free wellness screenings, HIV testing, carnival games, giveaways, dozens of booths with information about available medical and support resources and more. Walkers are encouraged to visit every station at the health fair and complete a “health passport,” which they obtain after the walk. Each participant will receive prizes and incentives for their participation.
Recording artist Daniel Patrick Ellis and singer/songwriter Janae Catt will be the scheduled performers. Ellis says while advancements have been made in medicine to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, “we are still on our journey to end AIDS.”
“Working cohesively with my friends at Care Resource is an honor and I am looking forward to celebrating the progress we’re making together as a community,” Ellis said.
Registration for AIDS Walk Miami begins at 8 a.m. April 22. The walk begins at 9 a.m. To register online, visit AIDSWalkMiami.org. For more information about Care Resource, visit CareResource.org.