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Event seeking to raise one million this year


Florida walks for AIDS this Sunday in Fort Lauderdale. As organizers of the annual Florida AIDS Walk prepare for a festive occasion along the Atlantic Ocean, the message is clear – testing saves lives.

“Testing is the most important factor,” said Mark Martin, regional director of development and community relations for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Testing stations are a part of this year’s Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival.

Martin guaranteed at last three different mobile units would be present.

Registration for the event begins at 8 a.m., March 22.

“We honor those we lost, support those who are still fighting and raise awareness because AIDs is still spreading,” Martin said.

Headlining Sunday’s event is American hip-hop act, Salt-N-Pepa. Women of color, Salt-N-Pepa hail from Queens, N.Y. Some of their more popular numbers include “Push It,” “Shoop” and “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

Salt-N-Pepa have been nominated four times for a Grammy Award. The ladies captured the Grammy for Best Rap Performance at the 1995 awards show for “None of Your Business.”

These days, music fans may discover Salt-N-Pepa through commercial advertising. Their number, “Push It” was recently the central theme of a Geico automobile insurance campaign.

However, music is just part of the scene Sunday along A-1-A. Stage presentations begin at 9 a.m. with the walk slated for a 10 a.m. start.

Now in its 10th year, the event, Martin said, is one of the largest AIDS related fundraisers in Florida. Updated reports out of the Florida Department of Health estimate there to be nearly 110,000 Floridians living with HIV/AIDS.

Presented by AHF Pharmacy, the cost to attend Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival is $25. The 2015 event is seeking to raise $1 million.

Martin said AIDS in south Florida is at a crisis level and events like the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival helps to raise awareness and provide education.

“It’s not over,” Martin said. “There’s still a battle to be fought.”

Testing remains the front line in the battle to eradicate AIDS. Listron Mannix knows this fact well. Mannix works at the Pride Center in an outreach role. He has canvassed neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale in HIV/AIDS prevention and testing efforts and said there are still pockets of resistance.

“Some of the churches we go to are in denial,” Mannix said. “There are people who believe AIDS does not exist.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 50,000 people are infected with HIV every year. If diagnosed early and treated, people with HIV can and do, according the CDC’s annual surveillance report, live long lives.

Greg Louganis is an example. First diagnosed in 1988, Louganis is now 55 and enjoying life.

“I don’t like to use that word ‘survivor,’” Louganis said. “I’m pretty much just living my life. I don’t want to put any energy into being a victim because that’s when you give your power over to somebody else. I’m living and that is who I am.”

Louganis, a U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame diver, is one of the lucky ones. The list of celebrities who have passed away due to complications brought on by AIDS is a long and distinguished one.

Some of the names include, Hollywood legend Rock Hudson, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, “Psycho” actor Anthony Perkins, who was married with two sons, tennis star Arthur Ashe, flamboyant pianist Liberace, American fashion designer Perry Ellis, Australian songwriter Peter Allen, Southern rocker Tom Fogerty and rapper Easy-E.

Registrations for this year’s Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival are being accepted until midnight Saturday, March 21. To register or for more information, visit