|SF AIDS Foundation CEO, Neil Giuliano spoke eloquently about hope for the future at the AIDSWALK benefit in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Rink.
More than 25,000 people gathered at AIDS WALKâ€™s 25th anniversary on July 17 in Golden Gate Park and raised more than three million dollars for care services, testing, and prevention for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. More than a thousand volunteers registered and coordinated the walkers, recycled throwaways, and handed out bananas, yogurt, health bars and drinks.
The Foundation is well-known for its excellent Black Brothers Esteem, the Magnet clinic that is the medical and cultural center of the Castro, and El Grupo that serves Latinos. Now in the 30th year of the AIDS scourge, the Foundation has been battling the disease since it was founded in a two-person office space on Castro Street by Cleve Jones in 1982.
The event began with a bang when Culture Shock dancers joined by former Supervisor Bevan Dufty led the crowd in a warm-up and motivational exercise. The Foundationâ€™s CEO Neil Giuliano inspired with his comments: â€śThe funds raised by AIDS WALK San Francisco play a vital role in our efforts to radically reduce new HIV infections in San Francisco, ensure everybody knows their status, and make sure all people living with HIV/AIDS get the care they need, and AIDS WALK San Francisco
is about a community of people coming together not only to create something special, but also to make a substantial impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS across the Bay Area.â€ť
More than 74 million dollars has been raised by the AIDS WALK in the last 25 years, and 48 organizations receive funds from the event. The annual event is an optimistic and positive experience that is balanced by the knowledge that almost a thousand people convert to HIV/AIDS every year in San Francisco. The Foundation is working to cut that rate in half by 2015 and to assure HIV positive individuals receive proper care.
MCâ€™s and celebrities that participated included ABC 7â€™s Dan Ashley, Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), and Cloris Leachman (Raising Hope). Mayor Ed Lee spoke and gave a proclamation to Giuliano, praising the vast scale of the fund-raiser. Notables included State Senator Mark Leno, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, Supervisors Scott Wiener and Ross Mirkarimi, Treasurer Jose Cisneros, and Police Chief Greg Suhr.
Leachmanâ€™s appearance was not appreciated by all as she has become a polarizing figure in many groups in San Francisco. Her inexcusable behavior at Donna Sachet and Gary Virginiaâ€™s Pride Brunch a few years back undoubtedly limited her public appearances, but there were a few people who delighted in her AIDS WALK mooning, leaping onto the lap of Foundation Board Chair Tom Perrault to swig water, and grabbing the sign language woman on stage.
Mary Birdsong from Armistead Maupinâ€™s Tales of the City performed a sublime â€śBridge Over Troubled Watersâ€ť with four smiling backup singers, and Judy Kale, also from Tales, sang an uplifting â€śYouâ€™ll Never Walk Aloneâ€ť as the 25,000 began their several mile trek.