Young Women Rock! walks the Walk

As of September 30, 2011, 110,746 persons had been diagnosed and reported in NYC and were presumed to be living with HIV/AIDS. About 75% of those numbers are males. That 75% helps to constitute an increase in new diagnoses in women that are now stated to be 1 in 3 women are infected with HIV and 78.6% of new diagnoses were among blacks and Latinos with Manhattan and Brooklyn having the highest proportions of new diagnoses between the ages of 13-29.

ImageThe statistics above compelled us to sign Young Women Rock! up for this years AIDS Walk NYC.

Described as the largest charitable walk in the metro area, the AIDS Walk NYC is approximately 6 miles in length spanning across Central Park, through west Harlem and back. The walk takes place every May, and donations given by walkers and supporters provides organizations such as GMHC, Iris House and other AIDS service organizations the funding necessary to maintain their programs such as free testing, housing, access to medical care, counseling, advocacy and other prevention services.

The mentees in this year’s Young Women Rock! Program spent nearly 2 months learning about the value of fundraising for an important cause, raising a total of $640. They asked their school administrators and teachers, family members and friends to donate to the YWR! AIDS Walk Team as they tried to reach their individual fundraising goals. Each girl did a wonderful job in fundraising, felt proud when she reached her goal and was excited to walk with her friends in YWR! at the AIDS Walk.

On May 20, 2012, we joined a community of over 45,000 walkers by filling the streets with our chants, our signs andImage our presence, treking up and down the hills of Central Park and Harlem in order to see a future without HIV/AIDS. Our girls helped contribute to the $6,014,822 raised during the AIDS Walk for a cause that touches close to home for so many of us.

All of our girls completed the Walk from start to finish. Their mentors and I helped to encourage them and push them along reminding them that they were walking to bring awareness not only to themselves but also to their communities. In NYC, 90% of women who are diagnosed with HIV are African American or Latina. This walk provided our young women with a deeper insight into the epidemic that is very much real, and very much stigmatized, within their own communities. Although the walk was grueling, it was its level of difficulty that reminded us of the struggle faced by people living with HIV/AIDS.

ImageAs the Fall semester of YWR! draws closer, we hope that this walk will become an annual part of the Community Service & Global Citizenship portion of the YWR! Curriculum in addition to the community projects our mentees create around health concerns and social issues that plague our communities. The AIDS Walk inspired our girls to look more closely at the decisions they are making in their lives and how important it is to make smart, informed decisions about one’s health.

Over the years, AIDS funding has diminished, either because it is no longer seen as as the threat it previously had been, or because it is seen as a problem endemic to the continent of Africa. From my experience as an HIV/HCV test counselor, I will tell you that HIV/AIDS is widespread and its lack of societal attention is aiding in the demise of our communities. This is why it will always be an important issue for women and girls. This is why we walk the AIDS Walk.

See our photos from AIDS Walk! 2012.

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