Students join thousands at AIDS walk

Thousands of people marched through downtown D.C. Saturday to raise money for people living with HIV and AIDS at the 17th annual AIDS Walk Washington.

Amidst the throng were about 150 GW students, who marched under the banner “We Walk Together” and carried balloons with the GW logo. The group, which was organized by the Office of Community Service, gathered at Kogan Plaza before the march.

Junior Jason Garner, the GW team’s co-captain for the event, said the group, which was the biggest at the march, raised more than $3,000. He said the group was also GW’s largest in the history of the march.

“Since it’s something we’ve been a part of for so long, it has been kind of a tradition,” he said.

Drew Taylor, who graduated from GW in May, represented the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

“Even though it’s an early morning event, we at Phi Kappa Alpha realize how good a cause this really is,” he said.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s five pledges were also at the event.

“We realize there has been a lot of negative shine on the fraternity the past few years, and we want badly to change that,” freshman Philipp Havenstein said

At 11 a.m., the massive group comprised of corporations, families, friends and even dogs began the hour-long march that took them down 15th Street, through The Mall and along the drained Reflecting Pool. Before the walk began, groups loaded up on water bottles, energy bars, and bananas supplied by the walk’s sponsors, which included NBC 4, Comcast and Starbuck’s.

Cheered on by passersby and supporters, the walkers trekked along the other side of the Pool, past the Smithsonian buildings and back across and ended back at Freedom Plaza. Volunteers holding up signs showing the year-by-year history of AIDS lined the route.

Funds raised by the walk will go to the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which will use the money to provide primary medical care, housing, food, case management and addictions treatment services to the thousands of District residents who suffer from HIV and AIDS. The march raised more than $650,000, according to the clinic’s Web site.

A 25-member team showed up to represent the First Baptist Church in D.C. Led by Christine Herron and Sterling Severs, the church has participated in the walk since 1998.

“It is where we need to be; it is the story of the good Samaritan,” said Severs, associate pastor of the church.

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean sent a battalion of about 35 supporters in his name.

“The best way to support U.S. HIV policy is to replace the current administration with a doctor and sex education based on prevention, not abstinence,” said Christopher Cooper, a Dean supporter.

There was a small police presence throughout the walk, with patrol cars positioned every hundred yards.

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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