Tired of meta, pie fights and flame wars? This diary's for you. If you follow where I'm leading you'll be able to help me make just a wee bit of a difference in the life of someone. This is a diary about a charity bike ride: AIDS/LifeCycle.
Before I go any further, let me remind you that you can sponsor me on AIDS/LifeCycle by going to http://www.tofighthiv.org/...
One might reasonably ask: "Fifteen years? Seriously Bob, isn't that a bit...oh...I dunno...obsessive?" Well, I have my reasons. I'll explain them to you beneath the Fleur-de-Kos.
I've been HIV-positive since the end of 1980. I diaried about that here before. The first person I knew of to be diagnosed with what, at the time, was simply known as "gay cancer," which we now know as kaposi's sarcoma, received his diagnosis the following year, before even the original acronym, GRID (for "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) had been coined. I began losing friends, colleagues, neighbors and so on in 1983. And I still do lose friends to AIDS, even now.
I am very, very fortunate. I've stayed well; I've stayed employed; I have decent healthcare coverage. At one time AIDS was considered a "gay disease." At this point, the overwhelming majority those infected with AIDS throughout the world (nearly 40 million people) are heterosexual.
Way back in 1998, when I was a mere child of 47, I signed up to participate in what was then known as the California AIDS Ride, an event created in 1993 to raise money for the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's Jeffrey Goodman AIDS Clinic. That first ride took place in 1994; the following year the San Francisco AIDS Foundation signed on as an additional beneficiary. The event soon blossomed, going from 500 or so participants its first year to a peak of 3,200 (my first year of riding). The original ride, accompanied by similar rides in other parts of the country for various periods of time, were produced by a company hired for the purpose; while the company involved did some very good things, they sometimes became a point of controversy. California's ride was uniquely successful, which made most of the controversy easier to overlook but the downturn in the economy after the dot.com bust and a number of poor business decisions resulted first in the California AIDS Ride's beneficiary organization's firing the production company and producing and creating a new, self-produced event (using the same route) and shortly afterwards, to the other rides folding and the production company going under as well. The year 2002 marked the final California AIDS Ride and the first AIDS/LifeCycle. Nobody really counts the final California AIDS Ride (CAR 9 as it was called) anymore.
In the fall of 1998 I signed up to participate the following year. Following my third ride in 2001 I decided to take a year off (sort of missing some of the controversy and drama, sort of being a participant in it). So I missed the first AIDS/LifeCycle and the last California AIDS Ride. This year will be AIDS/LifeCycle 13 (which everyone insists on calling "AIDS/LifeCycle 2014" because I guess people are superstitious).
If you're wondering why I keep on riding, it's to remember people like these guys:
Donald-David began with the second California AIDS Ride in 1995. He begged me repeatedly to join him. I told him he was nuts; that I could never ride a bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles. By the time I finally bit the bullet and registered three years later he had already passed away from AIDS complications. I found this out on my second training ride. I keep riding for heroes like Donald-David who help found the group Positive Pedalers which I've been a member of ever since I began training for my first ride.
I think of these and so many others when I hear this song...
...and of course while I'm riding.
This is what I looked like on my very first AIDS Ride:
Yeah, seriously young. Look at all that non-gray hair.
And here I am finishing the ride a couple of years ago:
Two road bikes and lots of gray hair later.
At one point in time there was no treatment; people could be treated for opportunistic infections but none of those treatments was particularly successful over the long haul. Nowadays most people who live with HIV are at least in principle able to access treatment which can keep them living full lives for years, if not decades. One statistic I've seen notes that average survival time after commencing treatment with anti-retroviral therapy is in excess of forty years. Naturally in order to be able to get on medication you have to be able to afford it. On a quarterly basis I have my viral load and the various constituents of my immune system tested. Those tests are not cheap and I am fortunate to have insurance that covers those tests. HIV treatment typically requires several different medications. There are now combinations of different medications that are available in one pill. But no matter how you get it, HIV medication is very expensive. Again there are people like me with good health insurance; my out-of-pocket expenses for HIV medication currently run me $720 per year but my prescription benefits are very good and without those benefits it would cost me easily ten to twenty times as much.
More than 33 years into the AIDS pandemic, tens of millions of people worldwide are living with HIV.
Those who sponsor me on AIDS/LifeCycle are making donations to support various programs of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. What can a donation do? Let's start with the most ambitious one and work our way down:
- $50,000 can help provide a counselor at The Stonewall Project who can see 40 clients a year for harm reduction counseling, which integrates substance use, mental health, and HIV prevention and education.
- $25,000 can help provide a half-time peer advocate who can see 50 clients for a year, helping them get to their doctor appointments and assisting them with daily living activities.
- $15,000 can help 120 Magnet clients receive sexual health services, including HIV and STD tests, treatment, education and counseling.
$10,000 can help us provide counseling services for more than 250 clients in one month through The Stonewall Project—which combines substance use, mental health, and HIV prevention
- $7,500 can help provide a nurse for one month to administer STD screenings and treatments to 100 Magnet clients
- $5,000 can help keep the Stop AIDS HIV Testing RV rolling for one year so that 2,400 gay, bi and transmen can be tested and counseled.
- $2,500 can help four HIV-positive people receive safe and stable housing situations for one month.
- $1,000 can help provide two Stop AIDS Community Education Forums where 150 men can learn more about HIV and how to live better and longer with HIV.
- $500 can help 15 people receive medical benefits counseling to obtain prescription drug assistance.
- $250 can help provide ten Rapid HIV Antibody test to test ten people at Magnet, Stop AIDS, or other SFAF sites.
- $175 can help provide case management for 15 HIV-positive clients who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness.
- $150 can help provide 1,000 syringes through the street-based Syringe Access Service.
- $100 can help provide the travel cost for a Stop AIDS Treatment Advocacy - Coordinator to attend the medical appointments of 25 clients, providing moral support and to help clients advocate for themselves.
- $25 can help a Financial Benefits counselor to assist one person in navigating the private and public benefits systems, including Medi-Cal, Medicare, CARE/HIPP, short-term disability, and Social Security.
- $25 can also pay for sexually transmitted disease treatment for one individual. Carrying a sexually transmitted disease greatly increases the potential for transmitting or contracting HIV.
- $10 can help provide 143 condoms that the Stop AIDS Project will distribute.
Now let's get real here: Do I expect anyone on this site to make a $50,000 donation? Or even a $5,000? Or a $1,000 donation? Seriously, no. It would be lovely but I don't expect it. In fact I might keel over from shock if one of you were to do that for me! (On the other hand, if you have the means and the inclination, don't let that dissuade you. I'll be okay. Really.) What matters is that any donation can help; donations by multiple people, even small ones, help even more. So donate what you can. Save a life. Help someone avoid HIV infection and/or homelessness. Help someone with HIV or AIDS live a better life.
And in case you've forgotten, here's where you can do to make a donation:
My friend and fellow AIDS-Charity-Rider anotherdemocrat likes to conclude her fundraising diaries with U2 videos. I guess I'm a bit more campy than she is. The following video was shot three years ago (or maybe it was four years ago). I know many of the people in it. They are riders, crew, staff as well as some...um...personalities. All of them, in their way go to making AIDS/LifeCycle not only a successful charity event but a most incredible experience.