Trinity Charities and New College of Florida are cosponsoring the 7th Annual Sarasota/Manatee AIDS Walk on Dec. 1. Last year’s walk was attended by nearly 500 participants, and organizers expect even greater participation this year. Those interested in walking can sign up online at TrinityCharities.org and can join as an individual walker, as a member of a team, or as a sponsor or donor. Pre-registration is not required, but participants are encouraged to register early and raise funds for the cause. Proceeds from the walk go directly to Trinity Charities and will be used to support their mission to provide support, education, prevention, and intervention for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and for those in temporary crisis.
“The walk is Trinity Charities most important and largest fundraising event of the year,” said Bruce Fournier, Trinity Charities’ Program Coordinator.
Money raised from the walk will fund the organization's Healthy People With AIDS health and wellness class and an emergency fund that working clients can use once a year if they miss work due to illness. It will also help the food bank, which is available to clients the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. According to Fournier, Trinity Charities gave out more than 36,000 pounds of food.
“The epidemic, in my view, is showing signs of resurgence—the misinformation seems to be that living with HIV is not a big deal, you just have to take a pill," Fournier said. "Well it is not that simple. The side effects of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, rashes, achy joints, headaches, and dizziness are so underplayed that most, if not all people who happen to catch any article on medications, would miss it. My generation lost most of its old friends to AIDS and today's younger generation did not see that and have no idea how serious having HIV is. Once you get it, you have it for all your life and you have to pay attention to your physical and sexual health for the rest of your life.”
Bruce says prevention and education are key to stopping the HIV epidemic and that in Florida, teaching healthy sexual choices outside of abstinence has not been the focus of our education system.
“Abstinence only (programs) have never worked," he said. "We need real simple, easy to understand education in our schools that focuses on healthy sexual choices. Also, slick marketing in magazines seems to show only healthy, young, and vibrant models when advertising HIV medications and treatments, and they have captions that say things like ‘living with HIV is easy.' That’s not the case.”
Free HIV testing, educational programming, and additional health screenings will be available at the walk, provided by Community AIDS Network (CAN) and Hedges Pharmacy’s CARES Outreach.
A diverse group of teams and participants have already signed up, including local health departments, a catholic high school, various local and civic groups, and several organizations that are also sponsors, such as Tropicana, Walgreens and Macy’s.
The walk will start at 8 a.m. with food, raffles, music, and prizes. The route is an easy two mile stroll through the Ringling Museum/Bayshore Drive neighborhood adjacent to the New College campus. It is a pet and family friendly walk, and anyone can help find sponsors, volunteer to help stage the walk, or secure pledges for walkers.
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