By Emily Thornton, Special to the Press-Telegram
The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach recently announced it will relaunch AIDS Walk in November.
The walk was originally organized by The Center, then the Long Beach AIDS Foundation took over. In all, it ran from 1987 to 2014, Center Executive Director Porter Gilberg said.
“This is kind of brand new for us,” Gilberg said. “The funding for HIV services in Long Beach depends on this. The Center knows how important it is this event continues… With this event, we’re making sure the funds raised are carried over to local organizations.”
Those organizations include St. Mary Medical Center’s C.A.R.E. Program and the AIDS Food Store, which have benefitted from past walks. More than $2 million has been raised in previous years, according to a release. Additional support this year will come from the Port of Long Beach.
Among The Center’s services are HIV/STD/STI testing, PrEP-HIV prevention pill, PEP-post exposure treatment, support groups and prevention programs. Most of the services are free to those who can’t afford it, and those who have insurance are asked to leave appointments available for those who can’t afford it.
“Many Long Beach residents receive services from these programs,” Gilberg said. “Anyone who registers to walk will be supporting them… This event will once again help sustain our community with critical funding for organizations that provide healthcare, social support and other basic needs to people impacted by HIV.”
At The Center, about 2,000 people receive free HIV testing annually, said Ismael Salamanca, director of health and wellness. Newly diagnosed people also are connected to medical care at local agencies, he said, including programs originally paid for by past AIDS Walks, like bill assistance and housing support, where those with HIV would get help with past due medical bills.
“For The CARE Program and AIDS Food Store, funds from AIDS Walk Long Beach may mean access to funds to continue their work when funds are cut or limited,” Salamanca said. “The CARE Program could provide more emergency medication for those who have lost medication or fallen out of care and looking to return. The AIDS Food Store will be able to purchase food that people living with HIV/AIDS can benefit from. Many times the food that is donated is a huge support to day-to-day needs, but items with higher nutritional value can be limited. Items like Ensure, perishables like eggs, milk and bread and food specific to dietary restrictions can be purchased with funds raised at AIDS Walk Long Beach.”
The walk also can support community, he said.
“It will raise awareness about the state of health in our city,” Salamanca said. “For example, in the U.S., about 15 percent, or one in seven, of the 1.1 million people living with HIV do not know their status.”
Those infected with a STD are two to five times more likely to get an HIV infection if exposed through sexual contact, he said. Organizations providing HIV and STD awareness, like The Center and more, are important, he added.
“All of these agencies are inclusive, affirming and empowering spaces that allow for frank discussion and realistic solutions to, one day, stopping the spread of HIV and STDs,” Salamanca said.
This year’s walk will be held at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, from Bixby Park (130 Cherry Ave.) to the Long Beach Museum of Art (2300 E. Ocean Blvd.).
Walk registration is $25. Those 12 and younger pay $10.
For more information and registration, visit www.centerlb.org/aidswalklb or call (562) 434-4455.
Emily Thornton is a staff writer with the Grunion Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.