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|AIDS Walk Atlanta marks 20 years|
|by Matt Schafer & Dyana Bagby|
|October 15, 2010 00:00|
The 20th annual AIDS Walk Atlanta steps off Sunday, Oct. 17, from Piedmont Park, drawing thousands to raise funds for 10 local AIDS service organizations.
“The AIDS Walk is a critical piece of most of the organizations … it certainly is for AID Atlanta. It’s a critical part of our fight against AIDS as a community,” says Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta, which puts on the walk.
This year’s event hopes to raise $900,000 after bringing in $875,000 in 2009.
Craig Washington, an openly gay man and longtime activist, is one of five “faces” of the 2010 walk. Washington said he knew he was HIV positive in 1985 when he began showing symptoms, such as swollen lymph glands, but was too afraid to get tested. He waited almost six years to have his worst fear confirmed at a public health clinic.
“There were certain fears that had minimized by the time I stepped out. I still carried a certain level of stigma — would people just define me by the disease?” he says.
Washington says he has used his status to teach and motivate people to strive for justice, but he’s also learned a great deal from living with the disease.
“I carry with me the spirits of black gay poets who are no longer here, many of whom died of AIDS. Those are the courageous ones,” he says. “They were out speaking publicly, daring to address this issue to unwelcome audiences when I wasn’t. There’s an honor. But it’s a mission, something sacred that is passed on to me.”
Washington is joined by other faces of the AIDS Walk: Marty Mitchell, the mother of Brett Lykins, who lost his battle with AIDS in 2007; Denise Stokes, who served on President Clinton’s HIV Advisory Panel, is an advocate for empowering and caring for women and has been HIV positive for 28 years; and Robby Astrove, who has been HIV positive since he was 16, and his wife, Danielle Arellano, who remains HIV negative.
See video below of Craig Washington discussing HIV and how the disease has led him to a life of service:
Top photo: The 2009 AIDS Walk drew some 8,000 diverse participants. (courtesy ProjectQAtlanta.com)
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