An estimated 10,000 people on Saturday are expected to participate in the 27th annual AIDS Walk Washington in downtown D.C.
The 5K walk and run that will benefit Whitman-Walker Health and 13 other HIV/AIDS service providers will begin and end at Freedom Plaza. NBC 4 anchor Eun Yang will emcee the event for the second consecutive year.
“So many people with HIV and AIDS in our community are living strong lives thanks to the good work of Whitman-Walker Health,” Yang told the Washington Blade. “This walk celebrates that work and helps ensure it will continue, all the while remembering those we have lost to this horrific disease.”
Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams will serve as grand marshals for the event.
“Since we opened our store on 14th Street, we’ve been proud to work with Whitman-Walker to help provide world-class HIV care and outstanding health care to the residents of D.C.,” Gold said.
The AIDS Walk will take place less than a month after D.C. officials issued their annual HIV/AIDS epidemiology report.
It noted 15,056 Washingtonians — or 2.4 percent of D.C. residents — were living with the virus at the end of 2011. Men who have sex with men and heterosexual sexual contact were the two leading modes of transmission among newly diagnosed HIV cases, but the report found they decreased 46 percent in D.C. from 2007.
The report noted the number of HIV/AIDS-related deaths in D.C. dropped from 425 in 2007 to 251 in 2011. It also said 80 percent of those who learned they were living with the virus in 2011 were linked to HIV-specific care within three months of their diagnosis.
“Our city has borne a disproportionate burden during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, although things have improved in recent years, we still have a long way to go,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told the Blade. “By participating in the walk, District residents can get us a few steps closer to the day when events like AIDS Walk Washington will no longer be necessary.”
D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is among those who are expected to take part in the AIDS Walk alongside Gray.
Whitman-Walker will honor Sean Sasser, an HIV/AIDS advocate who married Pedro Zamora of MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco” in 1994, during this year’s AIDS Walk.
“On Saturday, we gather together with much hope, promise and scientific knowledge about how our community may ultimately end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C.,” Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said. “Until there is a cure, we will rally annually for AIDS Walk Washington and ask more from our community in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”