Here are 25 people being honored by AIDS Action for their efforts and contributions. See below for a complete list.
Starting at 7:30 this Sunday morning, tens of thousands of walkers, runners, and volunteers will begin gathering by the Hatch Shell on the Boston side of the Charles River Esplanade.
The occasion: the annual AIDS Walk Boston event, the major fundraiser for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, a national pioneer in the community-based battle against HIV-AIDS.
It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed. So much has been accomplished, but so many challenges remain.
Nationally, there are 56,000 new HIV infections every year — 50 percent more than the 37,000 people who annually die in car crashes. Of course, thanks to medical advances, AIDS is no longer a death sentence. But the rate of infection still underscores a problem of epidemic proportions, one that affects more than gay and bisexual men and intravenous drug users.
HIV-AIDS does not discriminate. It hits women, communities of color, and the growing Spanish-speaking population. In Massachusetts, there are slightly more than 30,000 residents living with HIV, and new infections occur at a rate of approximately 600 a year. That is 600 too many.
What is truly startling is that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimates that 20 percent of those infected are not aware of their condition. With our country’s youth still recovering from eight years of abstinence-only education promoted by the thankfully departed administration of George W. Bush, this new generation is largely ignorant of AIDS and how the virus is transmitted.
This is a scenario for potential disaster — one AIDS Action is working to avoid. Through its advocacy and public-policy efforts, the agency presses community groups and elected officials to reverse the flow of misinformation about HIV-AIDS, and to effect real legislative change regarding how the disease is treated.
While each person suffering from AIDS has his or her own story to tell, as a group, these are people who too often began life economically challenged. AIDS Action helps them to manage their condition. It assists with housing, jobs, and education, providing the sort of stable foundation that ensures subsequent health care isn’t compromised.
It is a big job, and the agency needs your support to accomplish it.
These have been landmark months for AIDS Action. The agency is in the final weeks of completing its merger with Cambridge Cares About AIDS; it has moved its headquarters from Downtown Crossing to Jamaica Plain, near Roxbury Crossing, to be closer to some of its community of clients; and it has expanded its Boomerangs thrift-store operations to bolster its ability to remain solvent and independent.
Still, walking this Sunday or pledging to support another walker is the simplest — and perhaps most effective way — to help AIDS Action in its vitally important work.
For more information about AIDS Action and the AIDS Walk of Boston, or to contribute online, visit aac.org.