Monday, November 30, 2020

World AIDS Day Reflections on Why


COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 AIDS Vaccine 200 but it did nothing to halt your generosity or its impact on the progression of vaccine development. Even without an event, you gave in a big way. Donations to the Emory Vaccine Center by way of the Puget Sound Riders contributed more than $5,600 of the $46,000 raised this year for HIV/AIDS vaccine research. The steady input of support and tenacious research on this fatal, mutating virus that presents in many ways around the globe contributed to the rapid development, testing and delivery of coronavirus vaccines and provide ongoing feedback to bring us ever closer to an AIDS-free world. Thank you!

AIDS? Isn’t that pandemic over? Why gather for an event when a check will do? Simple. The AIDS pandemic is not over, and it will take more than money to end it. True, I’d get excited over a big $$$$$ gift though am keenly aware of the catalyst of raising awareness in a personal way. With HIV/AIDS long out of the headlines, a remarkably high number of people believe AIDS has been cured or that a vaccine is already available. Neither is true. Prevention and treatments have substantially advanced, but their reach is limited by accessibility to healthcare, cost, and cultural stigma. Would you get tested if it meant losing your job? How effective is a monthly treatment if you have inconsistent or no health insurance? And yes, it remains sadly easy to run into deeply held beliefs that HIV is a deserved punishment for immoral behavior.

I’m a straight, white, Christian woman, long past her athletic prime who makes for a curious sight in an AIDS jersey and spandex, cycling through the countryside, buying a Gatorade at your convenience store, pausing to rest at your sports park or changing a flat tire at the end of your driveway. I meet your curiosity (or acknowledge your contempt) with an approachable smile that invites your question and returns a truthful answer before riding on. Multiply several such encounters by a few hundred participants over the course of a 2-day event and it’s bound to make a community more aware of and curious about the current state of HIV/AIDS on the world, to vote, give and care accordingly. 

That is why I ride and remain ever grateful for your ongoing curiosity and support. I’m registered to ride in the 2021 AIDS Vaccine Ride and whether or not I make it to Georgia, I commit to continue fundraising for HIV/AIDS vaccine and cure research at Emory Vaccine Center and riding through the countryside in my AIDS jersey, now with a matching red ribbon face mask.

Puget Sound Riders join the #AV200WorldAIDSDay ride