People who wish to improve HIV/AIDS awareness and raise money to support those affected by the disease can join the fight and take part in the 13th annual Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival at 9 a.m. March 18 on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
The 5K walk starts at South Beach Park (the southern part of Fort Lauderdale Beach), heads north along A1A, then returns back to the park at 300 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. Participants can enjoy food trucks, tents in the sand and a concert by rapper Flo Rida and other entertainers. Online registration closes at 9 p.m. March 17.
Imara Canady, regional director of communications and community engagement at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s southern bureau, said AHF, which coordinates the Florida AIDS Walk every year, continues to receive “great support and interest from the community and our partners.” The organization matches dollar for dollar every amount that is raised. In recent years, attendance has ranged from 2,000 to 3,000 people.
“But equally as important as attendance or the ability to raise funds is to create a greater awareness and education component around the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” said Canady, who is also the chair of the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition. “HIV/AIDS in South Florida has reached a level of crisis, and we owe it to ourselves and our community to fight the spread of the disease with testing and education, while caring for those who are living with it.”
An estimated 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and AHF reports at least 15 percent of them don’t even know it. Canady says while much progress has been made, Florida is still disproportionately affected and the rate of new HIV diagnoses is back on the rise.
“We have to normalize the conversation around HIV/AIDS and remove the stigma and shame associated with it,” Canady said. “Many people are not revealing their status as a result. Access to healthcare is also an issue. More healthcare providers need to make HIV testing part of the regimen.”
This year’s big headliner at the music festival portion of the walk is rapper Flo Rida, a native Miamian who grew up in Carol City. The singer inked a deal with Atlantic Records in 2006, founded his own management company in 2009 and launched his own record label in 2011. Even with all his musical success, Flo Rida still finds time to give back to the community with his nonprofit foundation, Big Dreams for Kids, which helps inspire future leaders.
“We’re very excited about having Flo Rida again,” Canady said. “He has participated in the past and is just amazing to work with. He’s a tremendous talent who is very connected to our message and able to engage the audience like no one I’ve seen in recent memory. Attendees are in for a great time.”
Also on the entertainment roster is Miami/Fort Lauderdale DJ and remixer Alex Ferbeyre, drummer David "Jody" Hill of the Deep Fried Funk Band and the Hip Hop Kidz dance crews. With their mission statement “No Drugs, No Violence, Just Dance,” the Hip Hop Kidz dance program offers more than $30,000 in scholarships each year to underserved and underprivileged children and teenagers. The company helps young dancers achieve their dreams by giving them free dance lessons, clothing and shoes. Hip Hop Kidz dancers have appeared in Flo Rida’s videos “Going Down For Real” and “Once In A Lifetime.”
For the fifth year in a row, Ferbeyre will be the opening act at the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival. The local DJ is no stranger to playing large music festivals. He has performed at Winter Music Conference, Gay8, Miami Beach Gay Pride, White Party, Winter Party Festival, Art Basel, Gay Days Orlando, NYC Gay Pride, Gay Days Fort Lauderdale, Pride Fort Lauderdale and the Stonewall Street Festival.
Ferbeyre says he is “extremely grateful and humbled to be part of” the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival every year and to have the opportunity to give back to AHF.
“They help so many friends and family and our community at large,” Ferbeyre said. “The energy of the AIDS walk is very tangible, and I love the goosebumps I get from all the smiling faces.”
For more information on AHF or the Florida AIDS Walk, visit FloridaAIDSWalk.org.