After several false starts on this topic — there’s so much to say — I decided to pair it down. I ride because it connects me to a world of awesome people — riding mates, training ride leaders, ALC staff, the New Bears, all the cycling groups and teams I’m privileged to ride with, and most especially important, my donors. Without all of you, cycling would not be the fun adventure it is.
So far, I’ve raised $5,254.69 to stop AIDS in its tracks. These donations go to support programs, outreach, services, lobbying, HIV testing, needle exchange, and a myriad of other programs with one purpose in mind: to make California AIDS-free. But the most important thing is that each person who’s life we reach becomes one more supporter of life. You can see it in people’s eyes when we invade a Starbucks in the middle of nowhere. They do react positively and they do ask questions.
If you think HIV is almost over, the stigma is almost none, then you’re not paying enough attention. California had over 5,000 new cases in 2011. And while the US is better than most countries, the stigma still exists and is still deadly for millions. But by reaching out and lending a hand to our neighbors, brothers, and friends, we set the example and layout the course. We can defeat this disease despite ignorance and fear.
Scientific advances are making HIV more and more manageable every day. Between PrEP and studies showing that persons with HIV who consistently take their antiviral medicine and are undetectable pass along the virus at a much lower rate, HIV transmission has been targeted. Also, our understanding of how HIV works will hopefully lead to a cure in our lifetimes.
But for now, we must live with the facts: HIV is manageable but chronic. Those living with it face a lifetime of expensive and not pleasant treatment. HIV negative persons remain much better off if they can stay negative. That is why the AIDS/LifeCycle is as vital now as it was in 1994 when it began as the California AIDS Ride. And why I’ll ride every one I can and why I love you, my readers, my friends, my donors.