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In the circle of life, one pandemic has affected another.

Not even the SMART Ride can escape COVID. This year’s Southern Most AIDS Ride is a personal endeavor with participants engaged in various activities to raise money for HIV/AIDS agencies.

“The money raised will help carry these agencies into 2021,” said SMART Ride Founder Glen Weinzimer. “This year it’s really important that we help them get through until there’s some kind of normality again.”

COVID forced the cancellation of fundraisers and cost jobs leaving many people living with HIV food and housing insecure, said Weinzimer. Unrestricted funding like the SMART Ride raises helps HIV/AIDS agencies bridge the gap between grants and services.

In 2019, the SMART Ride raised $1.4 million. That same year the Florida Department of Health reported 116,689 people diagnosed as HIV positive living in the state with 4,584 receiving a new diagnosis.

Traditionally, teams are formed and cyclists gather to ride the 165-mile route from Miami to Key West. This year’s event, Weinzimer said, is “reimagined” as people run, walk, swim, canoe, kayak and do whatever they can in a socially distant manner to raise funds.

On Sunday, the AIDS flag arrives in Key West where the heads of the state’s various HIV/AIDS agencies will meet on the city’s pier. 

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