Why you should walk

A little time and money this month can make a big impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS

By Tara Cavanaugh

If you've never supported the AIDS Walks, this is a great year to start.

The upcoming AIDS walks - AIDS Walk Detroit, happening this weekend in Royal Oak, and AIDS Walk Michigan, happening next weekend in locations around the state - offer the opportunity to support state HIV/AIDS organizations at a time when they need it most.

"We've been swept up into the arguments that occur now about the federal budget and the debt ceiling and all that, which for many of us has caused funding decisions to be delayed, or put off, or caused us to have to live with short-term, even month-to-month budgets," said Barb Murray, executive director at AIDS Partnership Michigan.

"It's really hard right now with the federal funding to create a twelve-month operating budget when you just aren't assured of your funding streams."

Nearly 90 percent of APM's funding comes from federal sources, said Murray, and the federal government sends out checks after the services have been given: "So if the federal government catches a cold, we get pneumonia."

Earlier this year, the federal government announced state organizations will see a drastic reduction in their grant money for the next three fiscal years. For fiscal year 2012, Michigan's agencies will lose up to $1.2 million for core HIV prevention activities. That loss increases to $2.1 million by fiscal year 2014.

Increasingly Murray spends time figuring out which bills to pay: "While that's an administrative nightmare, it means that those of us who were in administration spend hours on administration, rather than on programming."

Murray would much rather spend more time on programming, because more programming is needed to treat those with HIV and to prevent it from spreading. The rates are still too high: at any given time, Murray said HIV-positive rates may run as high as nine and ten percent.

Murray wants to brush off the idea that HIV is a "chronic disease" that is easily managed.

"I don't find that phrase acceptable. It's much easier not to be HIV-positive and to not live with HIV.

"There's nothing simple about taking a lot of medications. Sooner or later it catches up with you. And certainly there are pros and cons to all those medications. The side effects are not desirable. So, stay HIV-negative. That's where we want you."

Nearly 20,000 people in Michigan live with the disease, and two-thirds of them live in Metro Detroit, said Teresa Rosco, executive director of Health Emergency Lifeline Programs. HELP is teaming up with Stepping Out for the walk in Royal Oak this weekend; it plans to fully take over AIDS Walk Detroit next year.

"Both AIDS Walk Detroit and AIDS Walk Michigan remind us of those we've lost to the disease, and also provide a real sense of support for the people who are living with HIV today," Rosco said. "At the same time, we're able to raise funds for really important work around HIV prevention and programs that do support people who are positive."

Some of the money raised will go to specific programs, and some of it will help organizations cover operational costs. The latter is especially useful, Murray said, because most federal funding is designated for specific programs.

Rosco hopes AIDS Walk Detroit raises more than the $160,000 it raised last year. Murray also hopes to exceed the $40,000 to $50,000 that AIDS Walk Michigan raises on average.

Kim Mumby, a nurse at Henry Ford Hospital who works in HIV programming, has long attended AIDS Walk Detroit. She's volunteered at APM for 25 years.

Mumby remembers when the epidemic first hit in the 1980s.

"I was just kind of appalled at the way the medical community was responding to the very first cases, as everybody was - the throwing food in the hospital rooms, going into rooms (suited up) like moon men."

Mumby is looking forward to this year's walks, and encourages everyone to attend. "It's a delightful group of people to be around," she said. "It's fun. And it's a simple way to be involved in your community in an impactful way.

"It affects every community, every single day, so it's a great way to have some impact with very little investment or commitment."

Where you can walk

AIDS Walk Detroit

Royal Oak

Saturday, Sept. 17

Starts at 8:30 a.m. at the farmer's market

For more information and to register: http://www.aidswalkdetroit.org

AIDS Walk Michigan

Locations all around the state

Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25

Detroit, Palmer Park, starts Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Genesse County/Flint, University of Michigan-Flint University Center, starts Saturday at 2 p.m.

Central Michigan, Island Park, starts Saturday at 9 a.m.

Ann Arbor/Ypsi, Detroit Edison Parking lot (at the corner of William and Main Streets), starts Saturday at 1 p.m.

Lansing, Valley Court Park, starts Sunday at 10 a.m.

Traverse City, Medalie Park, starts Sunday at 11 a.m.

For more information, locations and to register: http://www.aidswalkmichigan.org

When you walk, you support:

ACCESS

Affirmations

Children's Hospital of Michigan

Deaf CAN

HELP

Higher Ground

Michigan AIDS Coalition

Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency

Rainbow Alliance

Simon House

Stitches

Visiting Nurse Association

HIV/AIDS Resource Center

Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center HIV Program

AIDS Partnership Michigan

Alternatives for Girls

Community Health Awareness Group

Detroit Department of Health HIV Program

Children's Hospital Horizons Project

Oakwood Taylor Teen Health Center

Ruth Ellis Center

Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan

Wayne State University Sinai Grace Specialty Care

Wellness AIDS Services

Lansing Area AIDS Network

Munson Healthcare Thomas Judd Clinic

Central Michigan District Health Department HIV Program

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