Braking AIDS Ride Is Raising Funds to End AIDS in 2020 in New York State

On Thursday, August 15, 2019, from 6:30-8:30pm, mosey on down to Housing Works’ beautiful Bookstore Café, 126 Crosby Street in New York City and browse through rows and rows of red dresses, ready to be tried on, fitted and purchased by bicyclists of all genders.

This annual red dress sale initiates activities for the three-day 300-mile Braking AIDS Ride, from Cooperstown to New York City, to raise funds for Housing Works, a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Red Dress Day is one of the most popular highlights of this physically and mentally challenging ride. All of the 150+ red-dress-clad riders and volunteers will make a stop in front of the State House in Albany, and observe one minute of silence in memory of those who died from AIDS-related causes. Each year, staff at Housing Works Thrift Stores sift through their stock, setting aside the most fabulous selections—from full-length red designer gowns to slinky sequined spandex sheaths. The original prices for these creations run in the hundreds, but at the red dress sale, they are dropped to $10–$40, all of which also goes directly to Housing Works. This year, in addition to commemorating those who died from AIDS, the moment of silence will anticipate that by 2020 the HIV epidemic will be successfully ended in New York State, with the level of new transmissions per year reduced to fewer than 750 statewide—a major focus of Housing Works’ advocacy.

Braking AIDS Riders don red dresses for Red Dress Day, posed in front of the Albany Capitol Building. All Red Dress photos by Alan Barnett

Many of the riders in Braking AIDS Ride train for months before the ride. Every weekend, many riders put on their gear and pedal for miles, solo or in Braking AIDS Ride-organized events, to get in shape for the ride weekend, September 13–16, 2019. Now in its ninth year, Braking AIDS Ride has raised over $2 million for Housing Works. Riders must raise at least $3,500 to participate; some riders have raised in excess of $30,000 in one year.

Tom Hennes, a-thirty-three-year long-term HIV survivor and one of Braking AIDS Ride’s most successful fundraisers said, “Many people would prefer that those of us with HIV disappear. Wearing a red dress makes us visible and reminds the world that we and our wonderful community are still here.” He continued, “For one day, we have the privilege of exulting in our presence and our joy at persisting beyond the bounds of a mainstream society that has far too often turned its back on us. It lightens the load and draws us together.”

Braking Good: Candy Samples uses her powers for good at Braking AIDS. Photo by David Brungard

Candy Samples, who writes the A&U column Powers for Good, is raising funds for and participating in the Ride as a volunteer crew member. This is her sixth year!

Housing Works has housed and provided supportive services to thousands of New Yorkers living with HIV or at risk of infection since 1990. Their mission is to end the crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, providing lifesaving services, and maintaining entrepreneurial businesses that sustain their efforts.

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—Reporting by Hank Trout

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