AIDS Walk Delaware has always been about responding and prevention.
In 2020, AIDS Walk Delaware will expand from two walks on the same day to a statewide, week-long challenge, running from Saturday, Sept. 12 to Saturday, Sept. 19. Following the most current guidelines from government and health officials for social distancing, people are invited to walk when they want, how they want and with whom they want. There will be no formal in-person gathering.
For more than 30 years, AIDS Walk Delaware has attracted thousands of people to donate and walk in solidarity for Delawareans living with HIV. The purpose of the walk, presented jointly by AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium, has always been to advance HIV awareness, provide education, reduce stigma and endorse HIV-informed community health for all Delawareans.
For many years, the walk took place on the same day in both Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, and benefited individuals living in every part of the state. COVID-19 has dictated that the walk cannot be business as usual this year.
“If we had gone with a traditional approach, we knew the walk would have been canceled,” said John Beckley, director of development and marketing at AIDS Delaware. “We also knew that we didn’t want to put anyone at risk.”
As the guidelines from the CDC on exercising and being outdoors were being published this spring, the organizations decided to pivot.
“Those working in the AIDS/HIV services know a thing or two about reacting and prevention, having been through this in the early ‘80s. Fledgling organizations made up of passionate individuals provided support for those infected and early education on AIDS, and encouraged safe sex practices to mitigate the spread of the then-new epidemic,” said Frank Hawkins, director of advocacy and community engagement at AIDS Delaware.
In the year of COVID-19, the same thinking was applied. It is part of the walk’s work to continue to encourage protection to mitigate the spread of a pandemic, while supporting people at risk and suffering.
AIDS Walk Delaware is the state’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraising and awareness event, benefiting numerous AIDS/HIV service providers throughout the state. This year’s walk is critical as each of the benefiting organizations has been financially impacted by COVID-19, having been forced to cancel other fundraising events. The services they provide to the community and fulfilling the day-to-day needs of their clients, who already have compromised immune systems, is critical.
While walk organizers from AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium know participation may be down, as many of their loyal walkers are facing their own financial struggles right now, it is still possible reach the goal of $80,000. A virtual walk may even enable people who are homebound or for whom walking is difficult and those whose work schedules normally conflict with the walk to enthusiastically participate and leverage their online resources to meet personal fundraising goals.
To register or donate, go to www.delawarehiv.org.