By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
As the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in Georgia, the AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run raises critical funds for AID Atlanta and other participating organizations. Peach talked to Steven Igarashi-Ball, the Assistant Event & Teams Manager whose primary project is AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run.
Tell us about the AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run.
This year marks our 28th year, so we’ve been fighting HIV/AIDS almost the entire time that the disease has been around. Our event raises critical funds for AID Atlanta and ten other participating organizations. These funds are important because they are unrestricted dollars, and agencies can use them for any need. I’m excited that this year, we have increased our participating organizations from seven to ten – meaning that donations go even further to helping our community.
Tell us about the work of AID Atlanta.
AID Atlanta is the largest and oldest AIDS service organization in the city. We were started by a grassroots effort from a group of friends, and we have grown a lot since those early days. We have served the city for 36 years – as long as HIV/AIDS has existed. Today, we operate a full-service clinic and on-site pharmacy, in addition to providing free HIV testing and STI testing and treatment. I’m also proud that we operated the city’s first PrEP clinic, not operated by the Department of Health.
What does an event like the AIDS Walk mean to AID Atlanta?
Our event means HOPE. We don’t have a vaccine or a cure yet, but we are moving in the right direction. We’ve made huge advances in treatment, and PrEP has been game-changing. Still, HIV infection rates in Georgia are much too high. We need people to be reminded that HIV is still a concern. Our event is important, not only for the funds that are raised – every dollar stays right here in Metro Atlanta – but for the spotlight that it shines on AID Atlanta and our ten other participating organizations. Our event is a reminder that there is work left to be done.
What is the highlight of the AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run?
After 28 years, we are constantly looking for ways to make our event feel new and exciting. A highlight of this year is our Ambassador, Feroza Syed. As a trans woman who is both Muslim and a person of color, her viewpoint seems really relevant for today’s political climate. This year, we are also extremely excited about the musical celebration we have planned following the Walk/Run. All registered participants will be able to enjoy performances by Grammy Award-winning Gospel, Urban Contemporary, and R&B artist Erica Campbell, rapper and star of VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop Hollywood” Milan Christopher, and local favorites Electric Avenue: The 80’s MTV Experience. The amazing Gary With Da Tea will host the whole thing, and it promises to be a lot of fun for our participants.
Why is it so important to participate and support this event?
Georgia is number five in the nation for new HIV infections. Federal and state funding for HIV/AIDS is being cut, and people continue to be infected at alarming rates. We need our friends and neighbors to support the work that these organizations are doing 365 days a year. We need them to show up and remind people that HIV/AIDS hasn’t gone away. Most importantly, we need you to help us fundraise for these organizations.
How do you participate in the event?
Participation is easy. You can register online at www.aidswalkatlanta.com to join us as Walker, Runner or Volunteer! If you can’t physically join us, you can even participate as a “Virtual Walker.” Join us on Sunday, October 21st in Piedmont Park. The Run kicks off at 1pm, and the Walk kicks off at 2 pm. Then, join us back in the park for our musical celebration to finish the day!