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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “AIDSWalk brings out 5,500”

    A sea of people covered the UA Mall from end to end as members of the Tucson and UA community gathered for AIDSWalk, a 5K walk that benefits the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

    The event, which lasted from 6:30-10 a.m. yesterday morning, is expected to surpass last year’s total of $230,000 and turnout of about 5,500 people, although numbers will not be finalized until later this week, said Rick Wilson, director of development for SAAF.

    “”We’re hoping for the same amount if not more,”” Wilson said.

    Those walking were made up of teams, usually of two or three people, with some up to 40 strong.

    This year, there were between 70 and 90 teams, Wilson said.

    The event started early with a 10K run at 7 a.m., which was followed by the 5K walk.

    There was also an interfaith service sponsored and run by the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, featuring a chorus that sang a wide variety of songs from Shosholoza, an African folk song, to Oseh Shalom, a Jewish prayer song.

    Ari Kelly, director of education for TIHAN, led the service, which featured prayers and sermons from members of many different faiths, as well as a discussion with a man who has lived with the disease for 21 years.

    Twelve blocks of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were also on display, along with 13 panels from the Tucson AIDS Memorial Quilt.

    The event spanned the entire Mall, not including the route of the run and walk, and contained various vendors and groups.

    A moon bounce and a rock-climbing wall also provided entertainment.

    Local band Too Much Information volunteered its time and performed during the walk.

    At the event’s kickoff celebration, which included a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to the tune of “”Here Comes the Sunshine,”” high school student Kaity Bayne sang the national anthem, followed by a speech from Wendell Hicks, executive director of SAAF.

    “”This couldn’t be done without this community,”” Hicks said. “”Tucson is amazing.””

    The money that was raised from the event will be used locally, Wilson added.

    SAAF helps individuals in Tucson who are living with HIV and AIDS by helping provide food, shelter and medical service.

    It also provides educational outreach programs to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, often educating students in the Tucson Unified School District of the dangers of the disease.

    According to TIHAN, there have been a reported 1,746 cases of AIDS and 1,045 cases of HIV in Pima County since statistics were first recorded.

    Currently there are 40 million people who are infected worldwide, and there have been 35 million deaths related to HIV and AIDS.

    In the United States, someone is infected approximately every 13 minutes.

    With the educational outreach activities and the assistance provided to community members from SAAF, Wilson said Tucson has embraced the program with open arms.

    “”This community is very supportive.””

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