On Sunday, May 17 — three decades after the first AIDS Walk New York took place — tens of thousands of people gathered in Central Park to celebrate the walk’s 30th anniversary.
According to Newsweek the 10-kilometer walk takes place each year to raise money for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), an organization that works to end the AIDS epidemic through HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. Proceeds raised during the walk also go to dozens of other HIV/AIDS organizations based throughout the tri-state area.
When the AIDS epidemic first hit in the mid-1980s, the crisis went largely unacknowledged by the media, despite the huge numbers of people being diagnosed with the disease, a chronic illness that attacks the immune system.
Out of this, AIDS Walk New York originated, said Craig R. Miller, founder and senior organizer of the walk.
“(AIDS Walk New York) came about on the heels of a tragedy that was striking so many people and at a time when very little was being done by government, by media, by corporate America to address it,” Miller said. “So it really fell upon the people of the tri-state area to…organize, create this event, line up in support of GMHC and fight.”
At this year’s walk, organizers honored Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who created a Blueprint to End AIDS By 2020, for his work. Cuomo’s plan “aims to reduce new HIV infections and improve the health of all HIV-infected New Yorkers,” Newsweek reported.
Just as New York City was an epicenter of the movement to spread AIDS awareness then, it continues to be one of the biggest cities where AIDS activism takes place. Since its inception, some 890,000 people have participated in AIDS Walk New York, and the annual walk has raised more than $139 million.
The annual AIDS walk is just one of the hundreds of events that takes place in New York each year, and one of the dozens of events aimed at spreading AIDS awareness. A city that draws 50 million visitors from around the world is the perfect place to spread the word about the serious, deadly nature of this illness.
The Mayo Clinic estimates that as many as 3 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with AIDS — meaning the epidemic is far from over, despite the huge progress that has been made over the last 30 years.