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How One HIV Organization Is Staying Alive During a World in Freefall

AIDS Walk

AIDS Walks and charity bike rides like AIDS/LifeCycle raise millions annually for prescriptions, health care, food, housing, and basic social services for people living with HIV. This year will be different since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of these affirming events and all large gatherings of people.

While HIV organizations — and, ultimately, HIV-positive people — will take a hit from many of these lucrative walks and rides taking a year off, some organizers are thinking outside the box.

Recently, the people behind California’s AIDS Walk Orange County announced they would move forward with their 2020 event, but as a “virtual” walk. Through April and May, participants will sign up as “virtual walkers,” donating money themselves and soliciting donations from others. Radiant Health Centers, the organizers of AIDS Walk Orange County, are drumming up interest by encouraging supporters to take pictures and videos of themselves walking, jogging, riding, or hiking during the quarantine and posting the content on social media with the hashtag #AIDSWalkOC.

It’s clear this solution for the event, as creative as it is, is not a panacea. While last year’s 5K walk took place on the beautiful Huntington Beach boardwalk, this year’s event is being conducted remotely amid a pandemic blotting out most everything else.

Radiant Health Centers set an ambitious goal of $175,000, and by mid-May about $56,000 had been raised. Not only are HIV leaders in Orange County dealing with an economy in free fall, but they’re also competing with many other philanthropic endeavors geared directly to COVID-19 victims, essential workers, and first responders.

Still, whatever money rolls in will be better than nothing. It will allow Radiant Health Centers to provide the meals, HIV case management, mental health services, transitional housing, and transportation to doctor’s appointments that AIDS Walk Orange County fully funded last year, courtesy of $145,000 in donations.

“After 34 years we weren’t going to back down now when the need is greater than ever for our clients,” says Radiant Health Centers’ chief development officer, Susan Caumiant. “We are adamant in doing everything in our power to move forward in support of the more than 7,000 individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Orange County. We also knew that those who are fortunate enough to be able to give at this time will want to give to a cause like ours which provides health care equity for all.”

Read more about how you can donate at RadiantHealthCenters.org.

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