SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KCBS) – An estimated 25,000 walkers raised more than $3 million Sunday at the annual AIDS Walk in San Francisco.
The 6.2-mile walk began and ended at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Walkers headed west on Kennedy Drive, turned east on Transverse Drive to Martin Luther King Drive and then looped back on Kennedy Drive.
“It was a wonderful day. The energy was fantastic,” said Colin Weil, chief operating officer for AIDS Walk San Francisco.
The more than $3.03 million raised Sunday supports local HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and care services at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and 59 other Bay Area AIDS organizations. The event has raised more than $76 million since 1987 for HIV prevention, testing and care programs and services, according to a prepared statement from the organizers.
AIDS Walk 2009 raised $3.4 million and the turnout was similar, Weil said.
“Even in this challenging economy we’re all facing, people are showing up and using their positive energy to remind the greater world that AIDS still matters to them,” Weil said.
Sunday’s walk was also a celebration of a recent national push for HIV/AIDS research, said James Loduca, vice president of marketing and communications for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The White House announced this week the first-ever National AIDS Strategy to act as a guide for achieving President Barack Obama’s goals of reducing new infections, ensuring access to care and addressing HIV/AIDS health disparities.
“For the first time the president of the United States said in order to combat AIDS within our borders we need to do a better job reaching gay and bisexual men and African Americans,” Loduca said. “It was sort of the talk of the walk, along with remembering people we’ve lost.”
More than 1,000 volunteers began preparing for the walk before dawn. Walkers departed about 8:30 a.m. and completed the route in two to three hours, Weil said.
Opening ceremonies featured performances from members of the cast of “Wicked”, Shuler Hensley from “Young Frankenstein” and talks from several local politicians. Walkers were also treated to a post-walk concert and barbecue.