2018 AIDS Run & Walk Chicago : “Live True. Be You.”
by Hank Trout
Lead photo by Ed Negron

On Sunday, September 23, the 2018 AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will kick off at Soldier Field under the theme “Live true. Be you.” This is the seventeenth year for the event, which raises awareness and funds for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) and other CommunityDirect partners serving Chicagoans living with or vulnerable to HIV.

Some 2,500 participants gathered last year to participate in AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, raising over $480,000 in one of the city’s most vibrant annual run-and-walk events. Since its 2001 inception, the event has raised more than $5-million to battle the epidemic. Organizers anticipate that this year’s event will be even larger than last year’s.

Registration and check-in begin at Soldier Field at 9:00 a.m. with Opening Ceremonies beginning at 9:30. The last day to register before the event is Sunday, September 16, 2018. However, onsite registration is accepted for a flat fee of $50.

Photo by Daniel Kelleghan

In addition to raising much-needed funds to fight the epidemic and stigma, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago also serves as a memorial for loved ones lost to AIDS. At last year’s Run/Walk, AIDS Foundation of Chicago President/CEO John Peller said during the opening ceremony, “For so many of us, we are left without the perspectives of our brothers, lovers, friends, coworkers, parents and neighbors who have died of AIDS-related complications. Their voices and visions have been taken away from us by the most stigmatized disease on the planet.”

Regarding the theme “Live true. Be you,” Dustin Erikstrup, AFC’s Senior Manager of Special Events, said in a prepared statement, “When individuals live authentically and are encouraged to share their truth and stories, it fosters a sense of community, understanding and acceptance. In this unpredictable political climate, it is important to live openly, unapologetically and free from stigma. AIDS Run & Walk Chicago provides that safe place for participants to express themselves freely.”

In addition to the AFC, thirty-four other community organizations in the CommunityDirect program, serving Chicago’s South, West and North sides, as well as surrounding counties, receive funds raised at AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, including the Howard Brown Health Center, the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative, and Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, among others. Each participating organization enters a team into the 5K walk and/or the 5K and 10K runs.

Approximately 43,500 Illinoisans currently live with HIV. Recently, AFC, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and other statewide partners launched the Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) campaign. This state-wide joint initiative aims to end the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030. Researchers posit that if Illinois increases current rates of PrEP and HIV treatment substantially, the state can achieve its goal of fewer than 100 new HIV cases per year.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago mobilizes communities to create equity and justice for people living with and vulnerable to HIV and related chronic diseases. Learn more at www.aidschicago.org. For more information or to participate, visit their excellent website www.aidsrunwalk.org or call 312-334-0946.

Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-eight-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.