AIDS WALK - Richard Peacock12/06/03
Intro: On Saturday, HIV/AIDS support groups, as well as family and friends of people infected with HIV and AIDS, gathered in TampaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Al Lopez Park for Worlds AIDS Day, an annual event held around the world. WMNF reporter Richard Peacock has a report on the local effort to make people aware of HIV/AIDS problems.
This past Saturday, about 500 people got together Al Lopez Park in Tampa to commemorate the annual Worlds Aids Day.
The event was held to bring attention to the damaging effects that HIV/AIDS has rendered around the world and in the Tampa Bay area. Many have gains have been made to fight the spread of the HIV virus and AIDS, the deadly disease the virus can turn into. But support groups have recently had a tough time making life-preserving resources available to people who are in need of HIV/AIDS treatments.
One of the speakers at the event, Dr. Gene Capello, executive director of the Tampa-area- based AIDS Institute, noted that part of the problem stems from an inability to get adequate policies and funding for the 46 million people around the world who suffer from HIV and AIDS, including about 1 million infected people in the United States.
Capello says the Tampa Bay metropolitan area ranks 18th in nation in the number of people who have HIV/AIDS. He also says people of color, drug users and gay men are most at-risk of catching the illness.
Coordinated by the institute, the event not entirely grim. The highlight of the gathering was a two-mile walk-a-thon, which was probably look forwarded to, considering the chilly weather that came with the occasion. The walk itself was designed to raise awareness and funds.
Warm up sound
People were pepped up in a warm up exercise before walking commenced. They were later able to listen to live music by a band called Point 6. Refreshments from Starbucks coffee and Einstein Brothers Bagels were served, among other things.
That was Mary Ann Green, institute director of communications.
She said six to seven months went into planning the event. Coming out to participate were men, women, children, as well as people of various ethnic, racial and socio economic backgrounds. It was important to make the event inclusive, Green and other coordinators said, because the reach of HIV/AIDS knows no bounds. The Institute worked with dozens of sponsors in the private and public sectors to make it all possible. Green says a collaboration such as this had not been seen before in Tampa for the annual day of observance.
World AIDS Day was actually officially commemorated on Monday, Dec.1. But local participants didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to mind they were observing it later. They say there is always a good time for awareness.
Walking briskly on an asphalt path, one participant, Tampa resident Sara Tindel says some people have not given the HIV/AIDS Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a pandemic Ã¢â‚¬â€œ enough importance.
Tindel is a caseworker for Metropolitan Charities who works with people who have HIV/AIDS. Another walker and Tampa resident Deondria Riley also works people who are infected as part of her duties with Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan.
Her breathing and heart rate elevated, Riley said: (sound here)