Walkers, Runners Raise $700,000 to Fight HIV/AIDS

Autumn Colbert, a 26-year-old from Baltimore, poses for a picture while holding a poster of her father and uncle, who both died from AIDS-related illnesses.

“My father was a Howard University graduate, with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice,” Colbert said.  “He, later on in life, used drugs, so he contracted AIDS from intravenous drug use.”

Although the tears that threaten to fall from her eyes show someone who is still hurt, she came out to the AIDS Walk Washington 2010 to celebrate their lives, while spreading the message to those who attended to educate themselves.

The AIDS Walk was organized by the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a non-profit community organization that offers those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS medical care, and also provides mental health and dental services and counseling.

“African-American young people need to get involved as well—volunteer—get with some agencies in D.C.,” Colbert said.  “Even with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, they’re serving the community, and you can definitely get with them to volunteer.”

Although the walkathon began around 9:15 a.m., there was a timed 5k run, and also, performances by the D.C. Cowboys and numerous speakers before the walk, to entertain the thousands of people who came out ready to walk.

Runners and walkers began their trek from Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street and curved at the Capitol for 3.1 miles, giving people a chance to come out and assist in fighting HIV/AIDS, while also enjoying the scenery.

“One of my friends has been doing this for years,” Charlotte Haizl, a 25-year-old from Ghana, said. “I really wanted to join and give back to the community in some way to bring together the people of D.C.”

This year, the volunteers, walkers and runners came together and raised more than $700,000 to be donated to Whitman-Walker Clinic, so it can continue providing services.

In the position of Grand Marshall stood Lynda Carter, who is better known for her role as Wonder Woman.

“I am so moved by your dedication and commitment,” Carter said to those who attended.  “You came here to save lives; you came here to make the world a better place.”

Although Carter got on stage and did her famous transformation spin, she and everyone else realized the true reason why she was there—the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In the audience, Alonzo Howard, 32, is laughing and clapping because he has been waiting to see Carter today.  However, his love for his friends is the real reason why he even thought of coming.

“I lost two friends to the cause of AIDS, and I think it is about time to find a cure for it,” Howard said.

Looking past a cure, however, Howard, Colbert and Haizl all agree that it is time to come together and educate each other on this epidemic to put a stop to it.

“Protect yourself when having sex, and educate yourself on the issues of AIDS,” Colbert said.  “And I would definitely say just stay focused after you graduate and don’t allow life to take you on a downward spiral.”