AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium will once again jointly present AIDS Walk Delaware, taking place in person with walkers stepping off at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 18, at Grove Park in Rehoboth Beach, as well as at Brandywine Park in Wilmington. Check-in begins at 9 a.m.
This year’s walk celebrates 35 years of AIDS Walks in Delaware, which for nearly 20 years have taken place in both Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach.
To register, donate and collect donations, walkers and anyone who simply wants to fundraise without attending in person, may go to AIDSWalkDelaware.org. Walking is free, and walkers meeting a $35 goal receive a commemorative T-shirt. Anyone with a Facebook account can encourage walkers with cheerful comments on their fundraising pages.
The walk’s purpose is to advance HIV awareness, reduce stigma and endorse HIV-informed community health for all Delawareans.
AIDS Walk Delaware is the state’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraising and awareness event, and it has historically attracted over 600 participants and volunteers, raising nearly $80,000. Funds support free HIV testing, HIV-specific mental health counseling, education and prevention programs, housing services and case management services.
Currently there are 3,629 people in Delaware living with HIV. Statistically, 63 percent are people of color and 48 percent are LGBTQ+ identifying. The average age is 55, and approximately 54 percent are living at or below the poverty line.
“Our case managers have confirmed that COVID-19 has created additional burdens for people living with HIV, people whose immune systems can be especially vulnerable,” said John Beckley, director of development and marketing for AIDS Delaware. “Many are struggling with isolation, depression and anxiety. This year, we walk with those folks in our hearts.”
A 2021 Delaware survey of people living with HIV uncovered that food insecurity, loss of access to transportation, and unstable housing have added to people’s concerns. Some 11 percent of people surveyed had moved in with others as a result of pandemic economic impacts, with others navigating homelessness. Closed libraries limited people’s ability to access the internet for job searches and other services.
Medically, the survey results are worrisome. About 7 percent of people surveyed had reported receiving positive COVID-19 diagnoses. In all, 13 percent of those surveyed reported missing medication doses, and 20 percent reported missing or delaying routine HIV testing during the pandemic, due to transportation and communication challenges.
As of 2019, UNAIDS data showed that the number of people worldwide living with HIV was on the rise, but the number of new annual HIV infections had fallen, as had those dying from the illness. This was attributed mainly to pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, which can drastically reduce the risk of contracting the virus if one has access to it.
For these reasons, AIDS Walk Delaware is more important than ever. For people who’ve been living with compromised health for a long time; people who have just learned they are HIV-positive; people who love someone who is HIV-positive; and people for whom the best and broadest prevention efforts are still out of reach.
Walk funds also benefit other HIV service organizations, including CAMP Rehoboth, Ministry of Caring, Beautiful Gate Outreach Center, Latin American Community Center and William J. Holloway Community Program.
Walkers are encouraged to visit the Knowledge Neighborhood at their respective park before and after walking. Dogs are welcome at both locations. Walkers are asked to follow CDC and state guidelines and safety protocols in place at the time of the walk. At the time of this release, masks are encouraged, but not required.
AIDS Walk Delaware 2021 is courtesy of Greenhill Pharmacy.
For more information on the Rehoboth Beach walk, contact JulieAnne Cross at email@example.com or 302-588-3266.