In an effort to gain awareness of the thousands of people living with AIDS in the District, a group of about 40 GW students joined thousands of others to participate in the 24th Annual AIDS Walk Washington Saturday morning near the National Mall.
The walk raised more than $700,000 for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a local nonprofit that provides health care and services for those living with HIV/AIDS in the District. The Whitman-Walker Clinic hosted the event.
GW’s Student Global AIDS Campaign and members of other student groups met in Kogan Plaza to walk to Freedom Plaza, the event’s starting location, to complete the 5K walk.
“The fact that awareness for HIV/AIDS has died down since Obama came into office makes it really important to talk about it now. Raising awareness is what I am most excited for about this year’s event,” said Amanda Leslie, a senior and member of GW’s Student Global AIDS Campaign. Along with participating in the walk, GW’s SGAC also hosts events for Global AIDS Day during the week of Dec. 1 and provides free HIV testing at different locations on campus throughout the year.
According to the event’s website, it is estimated that one in every 20 adults in D.C. is infected with HIV, and about 15,000 people in the Washington metropolitan area live with the AIDS virus.
Lynda Carter, a Washingtonian best known for her acting role as Wonder Woman, made a guest appearance at the event to show her support. She shared a few words with the excited participants before the event, which brought participants down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol building and back.
“All of you are superheroes. You came here to save lives. You came here to make lives better. You came here to make the world a better place,” Carter said.
After Carter’s speech, participants took part in some warm-ups lead by the D.C. Cowboys, a local dance company. Participants said the warm-ups and overall energy reminded some participants of a concert atmosphere.
“I love coming to these events because I love working with people to support one great cause. It’s like going to a rock concert where everyone really likes the band,” said sophomore Alyssa Pattee. Pattee is a member of GW’s Voices for Choices and participated in the walk for her first time this year.
Newcomers to the city also said they found it important to participate in the walk.
“I came out because AIDS is a big problem nationally and of course in D.C. So it’s important to show both financial and physical support,” said freshman John Vagas. “I am also really excited to see all the people that come out and all the corporate sponsors that rally around such an important cause.”
GW students who registered to walk with GW’s SGAC or on their own included those from the Generic Theatre Company, the Multicultural Student Services Center, Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Epsilon Phi and Voices for Choices.