Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Working Hard to End AIDS

“If you’re feeling good now, you’re not working hard enough”

Words uttered by my indoor cycling instructor midway through this morning’s torturous pre-dawn cycling drill. At 5:45am every Monday and Thursday, I don’t think. I follow instructions, and I work hard. As a result, I am stronger. It’s precisely the mantra required at this stage of the war on AIDS. We cannot afford to allow life-extending treatments, broadly available in the developed world, to leave us blinded to the devastation this pandemic continues to wreak on humanity worldwide.

Researchers at the Emory Vaccine Center have made extraordinary progress on preventive and therapeutic HIV vaccines. Every minute of every day, the scientists, doctors and researchers of the Emory Vaccine Center work hard to develop a viable HIV vaccine. The least I can do is sweat it out to cycle 200+ miles in return for your contribution – large or small – to support these vital efforts.  100% of the amount raised will be used to fund groundbreaking work such as:

•  Developing vaccines that prevent an HIV negative person from acquiring the disease, and at the same time help an HIV positive person fight the infection without anti-viral drugs.

•  The LifeForward clinical trial, at Emory Vaccine Center's Hope Clinic, is designed to test efficacy in a vaccine to prevent transmission of HIV.  The Hope Clinic is currently one of the top three enrolling centers nationally in the LifeForward clinical trial.

 •  Working to reinvigorate the body's immune system to fight chronic infections like HIV and reduce dependence on anti-viral drugs.

I feel good about our progress toward ending AIDS but I know that by digging deep to work harder we’ll gain the strength necessary to carry that progress over the final mile. Are you ready to dig deep and donate a few bucks to support this hard work by sponsoring the 200 miles I'll ride next month on the AIDS Vaccine 200?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Riding for the Same Reason

It was a pivotal AIDS Ride season. Thousands of cyclists drawn to multi-day cycling events throughout the US, into Canada and across Europe raised millions of dollars for local AIDS service organizations and vaccine research in 2001. My Puget Sound Riders fielded its largest event team that summer with more than 30 cyclists and crew on the Montana AIDS Vaccine Ride while several more PSR traveled to Montreal for the Canada-US AIDS Vaccine Ride.

Yet for all its momentum, the AIDSRide infrastructure was crumbling. Ramped up marketing had broadened awareness and increased fundraising for several AIDS service organizations and 3 large HIV vaccine research institutes but event costs skyrocketed; soon more money was funneled to promotion than to the worthy beneficiaries. Mega-ride events came to an abrupt end. Beneficiaries lost a major funding source. Riders also felt the loss and immediately began connecting with each other to find ways to continue their commitment to end AIDS by riding a bike. The following summer several grassroots, all-volunteer ride events sprung up across the country - in New York, Atlanta, Texas, Minnesota and the west coast. That same year, my Ride for a Reason partner and I plotted a course and recruited dozens of volunteers across 3 states to raise $30,000 for the UCSF AIDS Research Institute by cycling the Breakthrough Ride cost-free from Seattle to San Francisco.

It’s hard work to organize enough volunteers and sponsors to run a no- to low-cost event in your spare time. We couldn’t manage a Ride for a Reason repeat so in the years since, our Puget Sound Riders team has sought out and participated in events begun by fellow cyclists in 2001 or 2002 who are equally committed to raising as much money as possible to end AIDS - the Empire State AIDS Ride, NYCDC AIDS Research Ride, AIDS Vaccine 200 and AIDS LifeCycle.

Last summer I rode in the 10th anniversary of the AIDS LifeCycle. This summer I’ll return to honor the 10th anniversary of the AIDS Vaccine 200, supporting HIV vaccine research at the Emory University Vaccine Center, with my Puget Sound Rider co-captains, Mary and Jon. In September I’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of my and Mary’s thousand mile pedal down the west coast with a grassroots return to the NYC-DC route in a “Stealth Ride”, once again supporting Dr. Yuntao Wu’s research to end AIDS.

The cause of ending HIV/AIDS may no longer have the backing of high profile promoters but the ongoing efforts of many, backed by so many more, will bring the end of AIDS within our grasp and keeps hope alive for the journey.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead