by Jonathan Whritenour
On Saturday, Oct. 22, Coachella Valley residents gathered in Palm Springs to increase awareness of AIDS and HIV at the 24th annual Desert AIDS Walk. This year’s Desert AIDS Walk raised over $200,000 for the Desert AIDS Project.
The walk started at 9:30 a.m. at the Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs. The Desert AIDS Walk is a five kilometer (3.1 mile) walk through the historic Movie Colony neighborhood and along Palm Canyon Drive. 1,500 people participated in the event, the highest turnout in the event’s 24-year history. The event was emceed by comedian Scott Nevins.
Free food and water was provided to particicpants by Costco and other vendors. Prizes were given out to participants who brought in the most funds.
A health fair was available for all runners as well as flu shots. Information about HIV and AIDS was provided to all participants. The walk was cosponsored by local businesses, including Walgreens, Toyota and many others.
The annual event is organized by the Desert AIDS Project, (DAP), which was founded in 1984.
Barry Dayton, the director of marketing and communications for DAP said, “The Desert AIDS Walk is important to us, because we want to call attention to the fact that AIDS isn’t over. People think there is a cure or a pill which can magically fix the problem.”
The organization’s goal is not to just find a cure, but to help people who are suffering from the disease.
The DAP serves three areas of concern for citizens who are at risk.. These areas are care, prevention, and advocacy. DAP provides confidential HIV testing for people who need it. The tests are done five days a week. They provide food, housing, medicare and counseling for people who live with the disease.
DAP tries to prevent new HIV and AIDS infections with education and outreach. The organization wants citizens to learn about safe sex. They talk to people to let them know AIDS and HIV are still a problem, but there is a way to stop them from happening.