I rode for the first time in 2016. My roommate and friend at the time had recently been diagnosed with HIV, and I knew very little about it. I saw what my roommate and friend was going through in our community as word of his diagnosis spread. I read the hurtful messages people would send him on Grindr, and, even knowing very little about it, I knew that what I was watching him experience had to change. I couldn't help but wonder how there could still be so much stigma around HIV in a time when healthcare for treatment and prevention of HIV has come so far. I wondered how within our own community, people could turn their backs on one another and tear each other down.
A video for AIDS/LifeCycle came across my Facebook feed, and I knew, this was something I could do to get involved. I joined the Funky Monkeys and quickly found myself in the midst of what I now know to be one of the most loving groups of people in the world. Thousands of members of our community, banding together to overcome an intense physical challenge each year, to bring awareness to and raise money for the incredible work at the SF AIDS Foundation and LA LGBT Center.
My first year, I laughed, I cried, I hurt, I whined, I listened to others' stories about why they ride, I learned more than I ever knew I could, I felt emboldened to do more, and left that ride feeling motivated to continue with AIDS/LifeCycle and their mission. So every year now I fly back from New York to join my Funky Monkeys and the rest of AIDS/LifeCycle on one of the most life changing adventures I've ever taken on.
When I leave the ride each year, and go back to a career in the healthcare industry, I'm faced daily with the realization that quality, judgment free care for those living with HIV and at risk communities, if often lacking - even in a place like New York. If I change primary care doctors, I'm reminded that not every healthcare provider understands prevention like PrEP, PEP, or even treatment options available. And I'm reminded regularly that we have so much work to do.
I've often heard from my friends living with HIV that the most difficult part is dealing with the stigma and public perception. That just doesn't seem right to me. In fact, it's unacceptable.
I'm riding again because I can't accept the current reality for our communities affected by HIV/AIDS. And I'm raising my goal to the most ambitious goal of mine yet: $20,000! I'm willing to take on that challenge because I've seen first hand the difference this ride can make. I've met the people whose lives are impacted and improved by the work of the SF AIDS Foundation and LA LGBT Center.
I'm riding for many of my friends, regardless of their status.
I'm riding for myself, in hopes that we can create a safer and more well informed world to live in.
I'm riding for you, anyone else who I might not know whose life and world may be affected by HIV/AIDS.
We're so close. Thank you for continuing to join me in the fight against AIDS!