SAN DIEGO, California -- Over 8,000 people are expected to come out for the 25th Anniversary AIDS Walk & Run San Diego, taking place this Saturday, Sept. 27.
AIDS Walk San Diego has a deep history - rooted in saving lives - and this year’s walk will honor that history while rallying the community together to work toward a world when HIV/AIDS becomes a thing of the past.
Produced by The San Diego LGBT Community Center (The Center), AIDS Walk annually raises around $400,000 for several local HIV/AIDS service organizations. The fundraiser is the largest single day fundraiser for HIV/AIDS in the county, and many of the beneficiary organizations rely on the funding to provide their services.
In 2013, funds from AIDS Walk were granted to 13 organizations that provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS, including
Family Health Centers of San Diego
North County Health Services
San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program
San Diego Youth Services
San Ysidro Community Health Center
Vista Community Clinic
The history of AIDS Walk in San Diego goes back to 1985 and is rooted in providing support to people living with the disease. When San Diegans first started walking, the event was called “San Diego Walk for Life” because the words “AIDS” had too many negative connotations.
"We started in 1985 and HIV wasn't even a word, but AIDS was a really bad word," Walks for Life founder Susan Jester said on the “Historical Notes” page on the AIDS Walk San Diego website. "There were still a lot of unknown factors [about the disease and how it was transmitted].”
"When HIV started, it was a fearsome thing; people were very frightened,” Jester recalled. “I remember that families would not come and pick up the bodies of the men who had died, and guys would put out the clothes of roommates or partners who were sick or had died.”
The first San Diego Walk for Life drew about 1,500 people and took place near the San Diego County Administration Building with a brief program and a walk around Harbor Island and back.
"I was shocked at how many people were brave enough and cared enough to show up," Jester said. "There was such pain and agony during that time. It was a heartbreaking, gut wrenching, angering thing. It was overwhelming. Here was this so-called gay disease that we couldn't get anyone to pay attention to and we finally got some press that was in a positive light about dealing with the disease and it made me realize that this was a start. That it was just the start.”
In 1989, the event was re-titled as AIDS Walk and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Local columnist Nicole Murray-Ramirez noted in a column in LGBT Weekly last week that the actual event, dating back to the first San Diego Walk for Life is 29 years old, however the event called AIDS Walk San Diego celebrates its 25th.
Major changes this year
AIDS Walk organizers have made some major changes to this year’s event that long-time participants (and first-timers) should take note of. Changes include the event date, starting location, route and special events surrounding the walk.
The weekend will kick off with a Friday night rally, “Reasons We Remember,” and conclude with several “Post-Walk Brunch Celebrations” at venues throughout Hillcrest. The walk will also start and finish in the heart of Hillcrest, a major change from its Balboa Park start over the last decade.
Reasons We Remember
AIDS Walk weekend will launch on Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 pm for the new “Reasons We Remember” event. At the rally, participants will hear from speakers who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, take a moment to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, and commit to #BeTheGeneration that ends the HIV epidemic.
The event will also include a candlelit vigil procession through Hillcrest.
Reasons We Remember will take place on Normal Street at University Avenue.
AIDS Walk & Run San Diego
The 25th Anniversary AIDS Walk & Run will take place on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 27. For at least the past decade, the walk has been held on a Sunday morning, so the switch to a Saturday morning event is a change for the community.
The walk and run start and finish line will be on Normal Street at University Avenue, another change from the walk’s previous start and finish location in Balboa Park.
This year’s event will include the walk, a 5K Fun Run, and a 10K Run. Opening ceremonies, hosted by Craig Herrera of ABC 10News, begin at 7:20 am with music by DJ John Joseph. Prior to the walk and run kick-off, there will also be warm-up activities and presentations by local elected officials and community leaders.
The 10K Run will begin at 7:45 am on Normal Street at University.
The 5K Fun Run will start at 8:10 am.
The walk will start at 8:15 am.
Additional information about registration, bib pick-up (for runners), and parking information is available on the AIDS Walk website.
Post-Walk Brunch Celebrations
Another new feature of this year’s walk is a series of Brunch Celebrations following the walk. Four Hillcrest restaurants have agreed to donate a portion of their brunch sales (until 2 pm) on AIDS Walk Saturday back to the event.
AIDS Walk participants (and even those who aren’t participating) are encouraged to dine at one of four locations after the walk up until 2 pm.
Martinis Above Fourth
3940 Fourth Ave.
Harvey Milk’s American Diner
535 University Ave.
1236 University Ave.
East Coast Pizza
435 University Ave.
Additional information is HERE.
To close out the weekend, AIDS Walk founder Susan Jester will host the “Founders Concerts for Life” from 5:30-8:30 pm on Sunday, Sept. 28.
The event will take place at Heat Bar & Kitchen and feature music by Tori Roze and the Hot Mess; Roman Palacios Group; and Manny Cepeda & His Trio of Bomba Music.
Tickets are $35 online or $40 at the door with proceeds benefiting AIDS Walk.
The concert will take place at Heat Bar & Kitchen, located at 3797 Park Blvd.
To register, donate, or find out more about AIDS Walk, click HERE. Walkers and runners are encouraged to raise funds as part of the effort, and community members can donate to individual walkers and runners or make a general donation.
Find AIDS Walk San Diego on Facebook HERE.
AIDS Walk San Diego is using the hashtag #AIDSWalkSD for this year's event, and is on Twitter at @AIDSWalkSD.