AIDS activists march in downtown Greensboro
December 7, 2011
Filed under Archives
Outside of the War Memorial Stadium on Sunday was a crowd of thousands getting ready to take part in the Triad Health Project’s twentieth annual Winter AIDS Walk. Upon arrival, participants were greeted by sponsors bearing candy, coffee, water and gifts. A crew of volunteers gave everyone red ribbons and t-shirts, decking everyone out in AIDS awareness apparel.
“People forget, people become complacent,” said Ken Keeton of Triad Health Project. “Our community needs to be reminded that this is still a disease that’s still very much with us today. New infections every day, and prevention is the only cure we have. It’s time for everyone to have a wake-up call.”
The walk advocated and raised money for Triad Health Project, which provides education about the illness and support to those living with HIV/AIDS. Children carried red balloons and chocolate bars, college kids came with their friends and adults walked with their spouses. Locals came walking their dogs, and families bore signs saying, “I Walk: In Memory of…”
“This event provides vital funding for the programs and services of (Triad Health Project),” said Keeton. “We simply could not exist without the support of our community.”
After everyone gathered inside for an opening speech, the walk kicked off with the band’s music telling everyone it was time to start walking. The steel drums,snare drums and whistle led the crowd out of the stadium. A sea of red emerged from the entrance, above which there hung a gigantic red ribbon.
The walkers received support from people cheering them on throughout the walk. People stood on the sidewalks outside their churches and homes,giving out water. “Thank you for walking,” they said.
Nearing the end of the march through downtown Greensboro, one could hear the sounds of drumming and cheering getting closer. Back at War Memorial Stadium, people waited to greet the walkers.
“Look at all these lovely walkers,” one woman said.
Cameramen filmed the happy supporters as they came to the end with smiles on their faces. Volunteers gave out high fives along with water.
The band, some of them Guilford students, continued to play as the big group that had stretched out during the walk again became a crowded mass of happy people.
Kaitlin Estill, sophomore, is a volunteer at Higher Ground, a resource center for people affected by HIV/AIDS.
“I came out to show solidarity with the people I spend time with at Higher Ground,” Estill said. “I think AIDS and HIV have a certain stigma surrounding them, and this is in large part due to the lack of information available. World AIDS month is important because it gets people talking about the issues and hopefully dissolves some of the stereotypes surrounding the virus. I’m discouraged with the treatment and isolation people affected with the virus receive in our society.”
“The Winter Aids Walk creates a space for people to stand in support of those affected,” Estill said.
Guilford had some events of its own in support of AIDS awareness. Sophomore Daniel Raeder is the HIV and AIDS fellow.
“World AIDS Day is important because it takes the time to remind the public as well as governments that HIV/AIDS has not gone away,” Raeder said.
Raeder and sophomores Rose McIntyre and Jodie-Ann Geddes, other members of the Community AIDS Awareness Project, arranged for activities like sexual health Jeopardy, a conversation about HIV and AIDS with a Guilford professor, and a poetry reading.
There was also a display in Boren Lounge of photographs taken by junior David Kinchen. The photos are of students covering their eyes, symbolizing this year’s theme: “Open Your Eyes to AIDS.”
“Something about the state that HIV/AIDS is in now is that it has fallen off the radar … it is something that is not talked enough about or taught enough about,” Raeder said.
However, Raeder hopes that the events of the week helped to raise awareness.
“It has become too easy to say, ‘I am not a high risk group, I won’t get AIDS, I don’t need to spend my time thinking about it, it doesn’t matter,’” said Raeder. “But by putting these photos up in such a common area there is no way to ignore its message, you have to stop, look and think.”