Record Number of Cyclists from 12 Countries and 42 States Set Out on 545-mile, 7-day Ride to Raise Millions for AIDS Services and Increase AIDS
SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 2,500 cyclists from all over the world rode exuberantly from San Francisco this morning, beginning a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride to Los Angeles as participants in the annual AIDS/LifeCycle. This year's riders and 500 volunteer roadies raised a record $11.5 million, more than any other annual HIV/AIDS fundraising event.
Now in its seventh year, the event benefits the HIV/AIDS-related services of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, two of the largest AIDS services providers in the country. Since its inception, AIDS/LifeCycle has raised more than $40 million for HIV/AIDS services. No other annual event raises more money in the fight against AIDS.
Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said the ride is critical in fighting the widespread misperception that HIV and AIDS are no longer a problem.
"We've made many advances in the struggle against HIV and AIDS, but the fight is far from over," Jean said. "During the time it will take us to reach L.A., more than 1,000 Americans will become newly infected with HIV. What's more, HIV continues to be nothing less than a healthcare crisis internationally and in our own back yard. The 3,000 riders and volunteer roadies -- and the 60,000 people who sponsor them -- are raising awareness and making a statement that we will not stand idle in the face of the monumental challenge before us."
AIDS/LifeCycle will put added emphasis on the importance of HIV education and prevention this year, according to Mark Cloutier, chief executive officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
"Though we understand how to stop HIV, every year more people in our communities are newly infected with the virus," Cloutier said. "Better prevention tools will help the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation revitalize HIV prevention and focus on reducing -- and perhaps some day eliminating -- HIV in California and elsewhere. AIDS/LifeCycle makes it possible for both organizations to explore HIV prevention that meets the needs of our communities, including many of the groups most vulnerable to HIV infection."
This year, organizers will distribute free premium condoms -- in packages emblazoned with the message "Ride Safe" -- to HIV/AIDS organizations and community clinics along the route to emphasize the message of personal responsibility and prevention.
AIDS/LifeCycle has been a major force in raising awareness about the continued effect of HIV and the growing need for services as the number of people living with the disease continues to grow. Over the course of the week-long event, the riders -- sometimes outnumbering the populations of the communities they ride through -- are greeted by local residents of eight counties who line roadways and visit rider pit stops to show support. In past years, cheering groups of schoolchildren have stood alongside the road with homemade signs and refreshments. Many local residents show support with signs of thanks that invoke memories of loved ones lost to AIDS.
The record number of participants in this year's event represents a full range of cycling experience and expertise, from novices to seat-hardened "hammerheads" and includes a contingent of cyclists living with HIV known as the Positive Pedalers. This year, the oldest rider is 81 and the youngest is 18. Riders train for months in advance of the ride and commit themselves to raising at least $2,500 each to support HIV-related services at both organizations. Meeting the physical and emotional challenges of the ride serves as an example that encourages healthy choices regardless of age, HIV status and physical limitations, organizers said.
In addition to being a momentous physical challenge for the riders, AIDS/LifeCycle -- which is co-produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center -- is a major logistical feat. Each day, crews of hundreds of volunteers set up and break down a "city on wheels" of tents, mobile kitchens, bathroom and shower facilities and support gear. These volunteers, called "roadies," perform myriad other duties, including posting directional signs, serving meals, repairing bikes, providing first aid and entertaining weary riders with impromptu performances -- often in costume.
It is estimated that 160,000 Californians are living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom are unaware of their infection. In California, HIV/AIDS has had a particularly severe effect on the gay community, with more than 73 percent of all cases occurring among gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities, compared with 59 percent of AIDS cases nationally. Communities of color, including gay and bisexual men, have been disproportionately affected as well. For example, although African-Americans comprise only 6.7% of California's population, they account for nearly 19% of those living with HIV/AIDS in the state.
AIDS/LifeCycle is supported by presenting sponsors Gilead Sciences,
Shopoff Properties Trust and FedEx.
The route of the ride and the overnight campsites are as follows:
* Sunday, June 1 -- Opening Ceremony: The Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave.,
Daly City, CA 94014. 79.3 miles to Santa Cruz.
Camp 1: Harvey West Park, 326 Evergreen St., Santa Cruz , CA 95060
* Monday, June 2 -- 105.4 miles to King City.
Camp 2: San Lorenzo County Park, 1160 Broadway, King City, CA 93930
* Tuesday June 3 -- 66.7 miles to Paso Robles.
Camp 3: Mid State Fairgrounds, 2198 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles, CA
* Wednesday, June 4 -- 97.7 miles to Santa Maria.
Camp 4: Preisker Park, 2301 Preisker Lane, Santa Maria, CA 93458
* Thursday, June 5 -- 42.5 miles to Lompoc.
Camp 5: River Park, Sweeney Road & Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436
* Friday, June 6 -- 85.5 miles to Ventura.
Camp 6: San Buenaventura State Beach, 901 San Pedro St., Ventura, CA
* Saturday, June 7 -- 61.5 miles to Los Angeles.
Closing Ceremonies: V.A. Center, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Beginning June 4, event photos and journals can be viewed at http://experience.aidslifecycle.org .
For more information or to view a complete training schedule, visit http://www.aidslifecycle.org or call 866-BIKE4AIDS.
Additional information about the history of the event, details regarding the sponsoring organizations and profiles of individuals participating in the event can be found on the AIDS/LifeCycle website press room at http://www.aidslifecycle.org/press.
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