Thousands of people walked and ran Sunday morning to raise money for HIV and AIDS prevention. It was all part of the 27th Annual AIDS Walk Philly.
Around 15,000 participants ran and walked down Martin Luther King Drive and Kelly Drive to Eakins Oval. While this year’s event raised $300,000, an AIDS Walk spokesperson says the amount was down 15% from last year. Organizers are hoping for a higher total during next year’s event as they continue to work to increase awareness on HIV and AIDS in the Philadelphia area.
Officials say about 30,000 people in the area are living with HIV. One of those people is Terri Hawkins who attended Sunday’s event. Hawkins says she found out from a doctor who also told her she was pregnant.
“They just said, ‘Oh, you’re pregnant with twins and you’re HIV positive,’” Hawkins said. “So I was so excited about being pregnant with twins that the HIV part went out the window. But it didn’t really click until I was six to seven months pregnant. As long as you’re having unprotected sex it can happen to anyone.”
During the event, posters along the Ben Franklin Parkway laid out a timeline of how HIV and AIDS have evolved through the years.
“One of the wearisome facts is that one in five people who have the infection don’t know it,” said Pat Lavelle, whose brother died from HIV 17 years ago. “So they don’t know how to get themselves into treatment so that they can protect their health and protect other people from getting it.”
Free, rapid HIV tests were also available during the event.
Visit the AIDS Walk Philly website for more information on HIV and AIDS as well as its impact on the Philadelphia area.