SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Organizers of the AIDS Walk held annually in San Francisco refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic bring them to a standstill, holding a virtual event for the first time in its history and raising nearly a million dollars for the cause.

AIDS Walk San Francisco and New York teamed up for the online event on Sunday. There were cameos from big-name stars, including Vanessa Williams and Gloria Estefan. Their message: the AIDS epidemic is far from over, and there’s still more work to be done.

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“We’ve had great success with HIV but it took years of study, it took years of research. It took years of development of beds,” said Brett Andrews, CEO of PRC.

Organizers noted the inescapable parallels between the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the current coronavirus crisis, a poorly understood disease, spreading seemingly unchecked.

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“We’re in a place of unknown, there are more unknowns than there are knowns. And that’s okay to have that at this moment because we’re going to find a cure. We’re going to find a vaccine,” Andrews said.

Sunday’s event raised more than $945,000 that will be used for research and treatment.

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First held at Golden Gate Park in 1987, the in-person AIDS walk typically draws about 20,000 people.