Families with kids and pet dogs joined longtime LGBT and AIDS activists and scores of other D.C.-area residents on Saturday, Oct. 26, for Whitman-Walker Health’s 2019 annual Walk & 5K Run to End HIV.
Whitman-Walker spokesperson Abby Fenton said more than 2,800 people turned out for the event and organizers were hopeful that it would reach its goal of raising $650,000 to continue Whitman-Walker’s operations as the city’s largest non-government provider of care for people with HIV.
As it has in past years, the walk and run began and ended at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. at 13th and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
According to its website, Whitman-Walker says its mission is to offer “affirming community-based health and wellness services to all with a special expertise in LGBTQ and HIV care.”
Naseema Shafi, Whitman-Walker’s CEO, was among several speakers at an opening ceremony for the event at Freedom Plaza.
“At Whitman-Walker our mission includes the empowerment of all persons to live healthy, love openly, and achieve equality and inclusion,” Shafi told walkers and runners. “We do this through our work in care, advocacy, research and education,” she said. “Your support here and the broad support of our communities are the guiding North Star that inspires us each day,” Shafi told a cheering crowd.
“I’m so proud to see so many of you here,” she said, noting that among those participating in the event were D.C. Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), David Grosso (I-At-Large), and D.C. Department of Health AIDS office official Michael Kharfen.
Also participating in the walk was gay Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner John Fanning, who said he has joined D.C.’s AIDS Walk each year for the past 30 years. Fanning is one of six candidates who have announced they are running for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in next year’s Democratic primary.
D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony, praised Whitman-Walker for organizing an annual AIDS walk for the past 33 years.
“As long as I am in Congress and as long as this virus is with us, I will be here walking with you,” Norton said. “And I commend you for keeping on walking.”
Jummy Olabanji, an anchorwoman at D.C.’s NBC 4 News who served as a co-host at the opening ceremony, noted that in 2018, Whitman-Walker served 20,790 patents and clients through more than 130,000 unique appointments during that year.
She said Whitman-Walker administered more than 19,000 HIV tests in 2018, and more than 7,000 of the tests were given free of charge. “They also served over 1,800 transgender and gender expansive individuals,” she said.
“That is why you all helped support this great nonprofit,” she continued. “And that’s why we’re all here this morning.”