Reignite the Community was the theme for the 37th annual Delaware AIDS Walk in Rehoboth Beach Sept. 16.
A total of 125 people signed up to walk two-and-a-quarter miles through the city to support AIDS organizations and to honor people who have been lost to the disease.
Tyler Berl, executive director of the Delaware HIV Consortium and Cape graduate, said the purpose of the walk is advocacy and awareness, and to raise money for HIV services. He said there are 4,000 people living with HIV in Delaware.
“There are barriers that still need to be overcome,” said Berl. “We need to make sure that our elected officials and decision makers know that this HIV epidemic still impacts the entire community.”
This year, the walk celebrated 20 people in the community who have been fighting against HIV/AIDS. Their portraits were on the T-shirt given to participants.
Two of them, AIDS Delaware co-founder Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Glen Pruitt, were recognized in Grove Park before the walk.
The Rehoboth Beach walk was held at the same time as an AIDS walk in Wilmington. AIDS Delaware expected to come close to its fundraising goal of $100,000 between the two events.
“We can fill gaps in testing and prevention, such as condom distribution. It can support case management services. It can assist with medical transportation, housing assistance, utility assistance,” said Josh Sheets, AIDS Walk coordinator for Delaware HIV Consortium.
Toni Cruthirds and Josiah Urban came from New Jersey with other family members. It was not their first walk, but this year they were there to remember Urban’s father, who died last year.
“This is very personal. It’s a big deal,” said Cruthirds.
“I still remember [my dad’s] friends growing up. They’re no longer here. Everybody had AIDS back then. I call it the greatest generation for gay people in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Urban.
Beebe Healthcare, CAMP Rehoboth, Walgreens and several other community partners were in Grove Park before the walk to provide information on HIV/AIDS services and to give vaccines for the flu, monkey pox and COVID.
“We have a coalition gathered that is devoted to the health and well being of our human family,” said Dr. Kim Leisey, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth. “Together, we will walk side-by-side committed to prevention and eradication of HIV/AIDS.”
Sen. Russ Huxtable, D-Lewes, and Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills showed their support for the cause.
“We join with you to recommit to ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic and rededicate ourselves to fighting the discrimination that too often keeps people with HIV from getting services they need and living a full life,” said Mills.
“I’d encourage anyone who cares about the LGBTQ community, the substance abuse community, the mental health community, we have have a place for you and we’d love for you to get involved,” said Berl.
For more information, go to AIDSDelaware.org.