About 10,000 people are expected to turn out for this weekend’s AIDS Walk, including longtime participants and many newcomers, said Robb Reichard, executive director of AIDS Fund, the event host.
While visiting local colleges around National Coming Out Day, Reichard said a lot of students were interested in learning more about the 5K walk and run that raises about $325,000 annually for AIDS Fund. The organization distributes the funding to regional partner organizations for HIV prevention, education and awareness.
Reichard noted that one in four new HIV diagnoses occurs in people ages 13-24, which makes the influx of young walkers — who will participate alongside veteran activists who have attended the event for more than 20 years — all the more important.
Participants in the 29th annual AIDS Walk can register at the base of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The run starts at 7:30 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The opening ceremony starts at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m.
People are asked to raise at least $50 and will receive a T-shirt for meeting that goal. Reichard said representatives from 22 partner organizations will be among the participants.
“When I see the thousands of people who are there, I think about the people, then, who aren’t there,” Reichard said. “Maybe they’re living with HIV and are isolated or they’re newly diagnosed and afraid, but they hear about [the walk], and it’s a nice little bit of knowledge that people are out there working for them.”
He noted this year’s event will feature a lot of returning traditions. A 25-piece section, the largest in the country, of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display. A dance troupe will perform at the turnaround point. Dukes of Destiny, a local blues band, will play several sets on the main stage throughout the morning.
“We have to fight to keep people’s attention on the epidemic,” Reichard said. “Great strides in treatment and prevention have led to some complacency, but we’re not done yet.”
For more information, visit www.aidswalkphilly.org.