The AIDS Walk Long Beach is returning for its 34th annual fundraising event along the Long Beach shoreline on Sunday, Nov. 14. Over the years, the event has raised millions of dollars to support services for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and is aiming to reach $50,000 this year.
The LGBTQ Center Long Beach has organized the walk since 2017, and the funds will support HIV and STI services at the center, along with other HIV-based nonprofit organizations.
The city has seen an increase in STI cases since the pandemic, not just in the LGBTQ community, but “across the board,” said Ismael Salamanca, director of health services at the center.
A rise in STIs has particularly impacted several ZIP codes in Long Beach: 90802 (Downtown), 90813 (Cambodia Town), and 90804 (Eastside/Traffic Circle) areas.
According to Salamanca, it is a combination of factors contributing to the increase, such as more people being at home during the pandemic, and the closures of testing centers throughout the year.
Although the Center was only closed for a month last year, “We had people come to us after about a year and a half, assuming that we were closed and were just not getting tested,” said Salamanca.
It is very common to show no symptoms for many STIs, he said, making it easier to unknowingly pass it on, especially without regular testing.
Researching HIV and STIs can be a challenge, said Salamanca. While smartphones have allowed for easily accessible information, a lot of available information is false or based on fear.
“It just creates what we have now— a city that is accepting, has its own gay events, has a LGBT center and Pride, but there’s still that fear within the community,” he said.
For Salamanca, access to information is key to combating the issue, and this is one of the key missions of the AIDS Walk. At the start and finish lines, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., participants can visit a resource booth, and speak with providers who are affirming and LGBT-inclusive, said Salamanca.
Due to the pandemic, last year’s fundraiser allowed participants to follow their own walking routes while posting pictures on social media. This year, this option is still available; participants can walk in their own neighborhoods rather than following the official route, and share photos and videos using the hashtag #AIDSWalkLB.
For those who attend in person, groups of participants will begin the walk in waves of 25 at a time to ensure physical distance. Proof of vaccination will also be required, and the walk will begin at Granada Beach and head west toward Downtown.
Prior to the walk, attendees can participate in Zumba warm-up exercises at 9:30 a.m. with the walk beginning at 10 a.m. Those who wish to run instead will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Morning snacks, coffee, juice and water will also be provided at the start and finish of the event, with a water stop at the turn-around point.
Registered participants will receive a commemorative AIDS Walk Long Beach shirt, and those reaching their fundraising goal will receive a tote bag, a branded face covering, and wristband. Registered runners will be awarded a commemorative AIDS Walk Long Beach 2021 participation medal.
Participants who wish to fundraise can even continue to sign up even after the event, as donations will be accepted until Dec. 31.
AIDS Food Store board member Taka Kaguma has participated in the walk for the past four years, raising over $1,700 last year with his team. This year, the AIDS Food Store has almost reached their goal of $2,000.
“Seeing the community and people get together and doing good, I feel touched,” said Kaguma. “Just seeing that gives me a kind of hope that we’re all in this together.”
For Salamanca, the return to an in-person event is an exciting return after an isolating year.
“I feel like, come November 14th . . . just reconnecting with folks and seeing the liveliness of our community, may invigorate me again and probably my team to just be like, ‘Okay, we’re not in this alone,’” he said.
Individuals and teams can sign up here.
LBUSD families invited to brunch and mini-workshops
On Saturday, Nov. 6, from 10 a.m. until noon, Long Beach Unified School District families can join several Long Beach organizations for a relaxing morning event of breakfast, yoga, art activities, and the opportunity to connect with one another.
Space is limited, so please RSVP here.
Ben Franklin Classical Middle School is located at 540 Cerritos Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802.
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