Thousands seek to raise millions for AIDS awareness

27,500 San Franciscans continue to live with HIV/AIDS, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. 83,000 Californians have died from the disease since the early 1980s. On Sunday, a throng of 25,000 looks to find a cure and “change the course of the epidemic” with AIDS Walk S.F., one of the largest walkathons in the state.

Gathering in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and funds for Bay Area programs, walkers will start the trek through a 10K trail at 10:30 a.m.

Walkers hope to rake in about $4.2 million, the sum the organization raised a year ago, said Erika Zlatkoff, event director for AIDS Walk S.F.

Proceeds raised by AIDS Walk S.F. will be donated to The City’s AIDS foundation, which then distributes the funds to 42 HIV/AIDS Bay Area organizations. Since the first walk took place in 1987, AIDS Walk S.F. has raised $55 million for the cause.

The walkathon’s primary goal to raise money, but the event is also dedicated to boosting people’s awareness and correcting misconceptions of the disease.

African-American women account for about 67 percent of new AIDS cases, said Buffy Martin Tarbox, media relations director for the San Francisco AIDS foundation. “We want to make it clear that [HIV and] AIDS isn’t just an issue in the gay community,” she said.

Walkers will also have a chance to write messages of hope to those living with HIV/AIDS and to memorialize loved ones who’ve died of the disease, Tarbox said.

With the walk concluding at 12:30 p.m., musical groups The Del Mars, Finding Mercury and Native Element will take the stage at a post-event concert.

Celebrities include the cast members from “Jersey Boys,” Jai Rodriguez from “Queer eye for the Straight Guy” and “Nip/Tuck” actress Kelly Carlson. Notable movie stars who have attended the walkathon in the past include Robin Williams and Sharon Stone.

For more information, visit www.aidswalk.net/sanfran or call (415) 615-9255. Volunteer eligibility is available on Sunday.

HIV/AIDS by the numbers

» 151,000 Californians live with HIV/AIDS.

» 1,000 people in the Bay Area will be newly infected with HIV/AIDS this year.

» One-fourth of Bay Area residents infected with HIV/AIDS aren’t aware of it.

– Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation


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