An estimated 20,000 people walked 10 kilometers through West Hollywood and the Fairfax district yesterday in the 31st annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles, raising more than $2.37 million for AIDS service organizations, according to organizers.
The proceeds from the walk allow AIDS Project Los Angeles and more than 20 other Los Angeles County-based AIDS service organizations to provide food, housing, medical and dental care and counseling for people living with HIV and AIDS and prevention efforts to stop new infections.
The walk began at West Hollywood Park following an opening ceremony that included speeches by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and West Hollywood City Council mem ber and Mayor Pro Tem Lauren Meister. Garcetti spoke on the state of HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles when he called for “people to go out there and take advantage of free testing and to spread the word.”
The walkers proceeded to Santa Monica Boulevard, walked east to La Cienega Boulevard, south to Melrose Avenue, east to La Brea Avenue, south to Beverly Boulevard and west to San Vicente Boulevard. The walk concluded at West Hollywood Park.
The walk included a new 90-foot tunnel with artificial turf, water misters and informational panels on the history of HIV and AIDS.
Organizers provided additional emergency services, extra servings of water and more relief shuttles in response to the hot weather.
AIDS Walk Los Angeles was the world’s first fundraising walk to benefit organizations dealing with AIDS. Since its inception in 1985, the walk has raised more than $80 million for treatment and advocacy programs, according to Ben Fordham, the walk’s director of communications.
The exact figure raised in this year’s walk was $2,375,946, according to Craig R. Miller, the walk’s founder and senior organizer.
“We are at a pivotal moment in the epidemic,” AIDS Project Los Angeles Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson said. “The funds raised through the walk give us an opportunity to really change its arc by ensuring that people living with HIV and AIDS are getting the support and health care they need while also being able to deliver health care — including HIV testing, STD screening and PrEP — to HIV-negative individuals in L.A. County.”
PrEP refers to pre-exposure prophylaxis, a way for people who do not have HIV but are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking Truvada, a pill containing medicines that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV, every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.