From June 2 through June 8, 2019 I'll be riding my bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles on AIDS/LifeCycle 2019.
Yes this WILL be my twentieth ride for AIDS, at least in California. I took part in the 2001 Canada-US AIDS Vaccine Ride the same year as my third California ride but it seems simplest to consider this one number 20. And since I took 2002 off entirely next year's ALC will mark my twentieth year of riding
As I type this fundraising for ALC 2019 has just opened (about an hour or so I believe). So in order to get things rolling I will, for now, leave most of the text I wrote for ALC 2018. But I'd be remiss were I to fail to mention that I reached a fundraising milestone with ALC 2018: for the first time and thanks to the help of many who will be reading this I was able to raise $10,000. With that in mind and because this is a watershed year I'm setting my goal at $10,000 with the hope that I will be successful enough to raise that goal at least once before I begin riding once again in June.
When I began riding in 1999 on California AIDS Ride 6 I assumed I would ride once or perhaps twice. Instead I have found myself with a rather formidable history of riding and raising funds for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. With the exception of 2002 when I took a year off to participate in the Gay Games in Sydney I have been a registered rider year after year (though I was on the ride as an unofficial photographer in 2006 due to an injury which kept me off my bike for three months). So this year will be my 19th ride in California, my 20th overall (I participated in the AIDS Vaccine Ride from Montreal to Portland, ME in 2001) and my 16th consecutive year as an ALC participant.
There are many reasons why I ride. I was an adult when the AIDS epidemic began as nothing more than a rumor. My friends started getting diagnosed in 1981 and then they started dying. Having lived through the era when my community and the world were facing this incredible tragedy I cannot simply turn my back on it.
I tested positive for HIV in 1985. I was able, thanks to having been part of the Hepatitis B vaccine trial, to trace my infectin back at least as far as the spring of 1981 and subsequently determined I was most likely infected at the beginning of December 1980. I am still here; so many people I cared for are not. I have to honor their memories and riding is the best way I know of doing that.
The ride community has now been in existence for 25 years. Through that time the community itself has experienced losses. In the early days and in fact until the early 2000s most of those loses were due to AIDS. I suppose it is a mark of progress that our more recent losses have been due to other causes. Long-time rider Edna Flores passed away in 2014 from a heart attack that she suffered during AIDS/LifeCycle. Mary Vencill, another long-time rider and training ride leader, lost her battle with cancer in July of 2017. Other members of our community have passed away in the last few years. Honoring these heroes who gave everything they could to combat this disease has now become one additional reason for riding.
Finally of course there is as yet no cure. Because there is treatment an increasing number of people live with HIV. Some, like me, have a decent income and adequate health care. Others are less fortunate. Those are the people who most desperately need the services I raise money for. I ride for them as well, and for those who will NOT contract HIV simply because the San Francisco AIDS Foundation is there for them.
Over the course of my first eighteen years I raised $114,318 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The minimum I have to raise to participate is $3,000. Since receiving my first donation in the fall of 1998 I've raised over $124,000 (which means I've got another milestone coming up and hopefully fairly early on). In 2016 I turned 65. I raised more money than I ever had previously. And I was selected to be a Media Ambassador. This meant making myself available for interviews from both print and online media. I was also honored to be one of the people profiled on video during the ride.
You'll probably need to cut and paste the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKexhlMtmDc
What will your donations do? Please consider the following:
- $50,000 can help a substance use counselor see 40 clients a year for harm reduction counseling, which integrates substance use, mental health, and HIV prevention and education.
- $25,000 can help a half-time peer advocate see 50 clients for a year enabling them get to their doctor appointments and assisting them with daily living activities.
- $15,000 can help 120 Magnet clients receive sexual health services, including HIV and STD tests, treatment, education and counseling.
- $10,000 can help us provide substance use counseling services for more than 250 clients in one month.
- $7,500 can help provide a nurse for one month to administer STI screenings and treatments to 100 Magnet clients.
- $5,000 can help keep our mobile testing unit rolling for one year so that 2,400 gay, bi and transmen can be tested and counseled.
- $2,500 can help four HIV-positive people receive safe and stable housing situations for one month.
- $1,000 can help provide two Positive Force community forums where 150 men can learn more about HIV and how to live better and longer with HIV.
- $500can help 15 people receive medical benefits counseling to obtain prescription drug assistance.
- $250 can help provide ten Rapid HIV Antibody test to test ten people at Magnet, and other foundation sites.
- $175 can help provide case management for 15 HIV-positive clients who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness.
- $150 can help provide 1,000 syringes through the street-based Syringe Access Service.
- $100 can help provide the travel cost for a Treatment Advocacy Coordinator to attend the medical appointments of 25 clients, providing moral support and to help clients advocate for themselves.
- $25 can help a Financial Benefits counselor to assist one person in navigating the private and public benefits systems, including Medi-Cal, Medicare, CARE/HIPP, short-term disability, and Social Security.
- $10 can help provide 143 condoms to our clients at all of our service sites.
I realize that none of the people I know are in a position to donate thousands of dollars but you all should be aware that no donation is too small not to make a measurable contribution to the fight against HIV and AIDS. So please give what you can and help me make a difference.