Students prepare for AIDS Walk

GW students will join people from around the country and D.C. to participate in AIDS Walk 2000 Saturday. The event aims to increase awareness about AIDS and raise money for AIDS research.

GW student groups traditionally participate in the annual event independently, but the University will send one unified group this year, said Lily Needleman, who is helping organize GW’s team. For the past several years, the University has sent more student groups than any other area school, according to a Student Activities Center press release. Last year 18 GW student groups participated in the event, and hundreds of GW students walked and raised pledge money to fund AIDS research.

Event organizers said AIDS Walk 2000 aims to educate people about AIDS and HIV in order to break through stereotypes and social barriers.

There are still a lot of misconceptions out there, junior Lily Needleman said. The AIDS Walk hopes to show people the extent of the AIDS problem and eliminate the many misconceptions that people have about the disease.

Needleman said the walk not only raises money, but also raises awareness and helps educate people about the nature of the disease.

Proceeds from the AIDS Walk will be donated to the Whitman- Walker Clinic, the largest clinic helping those with AIDS and HIV in the District. The clinic offers treatment for patients living with AIDS.

To recognize the four clinics in the area, AIDS Walk 2000 will start from four different locations: Meridian Hill Park in Northwest, Anacostia Park in Southeast, Stanton Park in Northeast and the Pentagon parking lot in Virginia. The four teams will meet at the National Mall to form a human AIDS ribbon.

After the four teams meet at the Mall, politicians and dignitaries will speak and offer encouragement to participants.

I hope that by people coming together to support AIDS work, we can erase some of the stigmas in society related to HIV, said sophomore Garrett Silverman, who said she will be walking with a group of friends Saturday.

The AIDS Walk is particularly important to D.C. because the city has the highest reported AIDS rate in the country. According to a 1999 American Health Line Report, between 14,000 and 17,000 District residents have HIV or AIDS. AIDS is the leading cause of death among D.C. residents 25- to 44-years-old.

It’s such a city environment, I’m surprised it’s not talked about more, junior Sheeba Roy said. I don’t know anybody with AIDS, but when I saw (the quilt), I wanted to walk for them.

The number of heterosexual men and women living with AIDS has risen considerably in recent years, according to reports posted on the Whitman-Walker Web site.

Males, blacks and gay men are the most common groups afflicted by the disease, according to the Web site.

It’s one of those diseases that you never know who could get it, said senior Sushupti Yalamanchili, who has participated in past walks. We’re walking more for prevention and research.

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