PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — HIV/AIDS is still very much a threat, says Tom Bertrand, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island, and he’s concerned that the prevention message is not being heard.
“Prevention is key,” he said. “The theme of this year’s AIDS Walk for Life is ‘Grow Up Healthy and AIDS-Free! Get Tested for HIV!’ We are hoping as many people as possible will attend to raise awareness and to raise money to fight HIV and AIDS,” he said.
HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV damages the body by destroying blood cells that help fight infections.
First Lady Stephanie Chafee, one of Rhode Island’s first nurses to work exclusively with AIDS patients, is the honorary chair of the Sunday, September 23 AIDS Walk for Life. Funds raised benefit AIDS Project Rhode Island, which offers a range of services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Bertrand praised Mrs. Chafee for her commitment to fighting HIV and AIDS. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 20% of individuals infected with HIV don’t know their status. The support of Mrs. Chafee will be extremely helpful in our efforts to expand HIV testing to help people learn their status.”
Philip Chan, M.D., is the event chair. Dr. Chan is an attending physician at The Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital specializing in HIV/AIDS. He also performs research at Brown University on HIV epidemiology and transmission. “I’m excited about the opportunity to lead the AIDS Walk and the effort in Rhode Island to help our young people grow up healthy. This is a time for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity, to develop healthy behaviors to protect them from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” said Dr. Chan.
Potential walkers may register on-line by visiting www.firstgiving.com/aidswalkri .
Registration the day of the event is at 9 a.m. and the walk kicks off at 10 a.m. More than 500 walkers are expected to travel the 2.5 mile route, which begins and ends on the State House lawn.
Free rapid HIV testing will be available, and Lifespan will administer free flu shots.
“Walkers will be able to walk with a panel from the AIDS Quilt if they wish,” said Amy Stein, AIDS Project Rhode Island’s development officer. Entertainment will be by The Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, as well as a DJ from Romantic Receptions. NBC 10’s Barbara Morse Silva will emcee.
Ms. Stein thanked event chair Dr. Philip Chan, the event committee and the sponsors, which include Cardi’s Furniture, The Miriam Hospital – A Lifespan Partner, and the City of Providence.
Media sponsors include NBC 10, Clear Channel, Eastside Monthly, Providence Monthly, Options Magazine, and the Jewish Voice and Herald.
In-kind sponsors include: Cuban Revolution, Dave & Busters, Healing Hands Massage Therapy, Libations, Panera Bread, Pepsi, Sweet Sophistications, Starbucks, and Whole Foods.
She also thanked the honorary committee: Governor and Mrs. Chafee; Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts; Senator Jack Reed; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse; Congressman Jim Langevin; Congressman David Cicilline; Attorney General Peter Kilmartin; General Treasurer Gina Raimondo; Secretary of State Ralph Mollis; Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed; Speaker of the House Gordon Fox; Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian.