23rd annual AIDS Walk set for weekend
The Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation will march onto campus for its 23rd year of raising awareness of HIV and AIDS with its annual AIDS walk this weekend.
As part of the walk, Pima County will provide free and confidential HIV testing to raise awareness and demonstrate how simple it is to get tested, according to Dave Martinez, prevention program manager at the foundation.
Waco Starr, the foundation’s senior health education specialist, said the UA’s central quality and size make it an ideal place to advertise the AIDS Walk.
“It is a great way to bring everyone together, and especially being on the UA campus, it gets a lot of the students involved,” Starr said.
HIV and AIDS survivors will speak before the walk, and remembrance quilts will be presented in memory of those who have died from HIV. The nonprofit organization AIDS Ribbon Tucson will also attend and give participants a chance to sign a ribbon as a memorial to those who have died or been afflicted with HIV or AIDS.
Martinez said that AIDS is entirely preventable, but people often forget and remain uninformed when the disease isn’t brought to their attention. Several young people who were recently infected, Martinez said, didn’t have all the facts. The walk is a way to raise awareness and remind people of the danger, but also the preventability of the disease.
“It is 100 percent preventable so we’re just trying to get the word out and bring awareness to it,” Martinez said. “When someone’s infected it’s a long process as far as medication and doctor visits and whatnot, and that can all be avoided if you just know about it.”
Stephan Przybylowicz, co-director of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona’s Pride Alliance, emphasized that HIV and AIDS can affect anyone, and that many victims are unaware of the disease until several years after they’ve contracted it.
“Many people don’t show symptoms until up to 10 years after initial infection, so a person who discovers they have HIV/AIDS in their 30s or 40s probably got it while in college,” Przybylowicz said. “In fact, 7 percent of the population SAAF serves is under 25. Students need to be aware of how to protect themselves and make good choices.”