The 9th Annual AIDS Walk AV kicked off around 8:30 a.m. at Boeing Plaza in Lancaster with the Lancaster High School Color Guard and songs of inspiration from the William J. (Pete) Knight High School Choir.
“It’s an honor to come out and sing a message of hope to those who have lost loved ones to this dreaded disease, and greater still to just offer some music of inspiration,” said Choir Director John Crocker.
“The good news is people are living longer with HIV because of the new and improved treatment that they’re receiving,” said AIDS Walk AV Committee Chairwoman Sue Strom. “But AIDS is still at its epidemic proportions; it’s still killing people and it’s just got to be stopped.”
Strom’s message was echoed by local dignitaries who attended the opening ceremony, including Norm Hickling, of Supervisor Micheal Antonovich’s office, California State Assemblyman Steve Knight, and Mayor Emeritus and Grand Marshal of the walk-a-thon, Frank C. Roberts.
“AIDS is still with us so it’s important that we realize that, and walk to raise money to try to get rid of this horrendous horrible disease that’s caused so many families and so many people great anguish,” said Roberts.
Raquel Cataldo said Tarzana Treatment Centers was doing its part to combat the epidemic by opening two new HIV clinics in the Antelope Valley – one on Lancaster Boulevard at the corner of 10th street, and one in Palmdale on Rancho Vista Boulevard in the 99 Cents Stores’ Shopping Center.
“We are providing a barrage of services and continual care, with social services integrated with mental health, medical treatment, case management, dental services, and transportation for HIV patients,” said Cataldo.
A letter of commendation was presented to AIDS Walk AV by Hickling on behalf of Supervisor Michael Antonovich, while a proclamation declaring October 22, 2011 as AIDS Walk AV Day was presented to the group on behalf of Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford and the City of Palmdale.
After the brief opening ceremonies, Tina Durken from Monster Fitness lead the group in various warm-up exercises. Then participants took to the streets of Lancaster, walking west on Lancaster Boulevard to Lancaster Marketplace, where free anonymous AIDS testing was offered. Walkers then proceeded north on Valley Central Way to Avenue I, east to Sierra Highway, and then south back to Boeing Plaza.
Several community organizations and businesses took part in the event, including the Antelope Valley Youth Support Association, the Catalyst Foundation, Walgreens, Antelope Valley High School Team Builders, and Friday Night Live from Lancaster High School.
Strom said all donations collected as part of the five-mile walk would go to local groups and charities, including the Catalyst Foundation, Antelope Valley GLBT Community Center, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.
The walk-a-thon raised about $1,800 in donations last year and is expected to raise even more this year, said Strom. For more pictures of the event, visit our facebook page.