D.C. walkers hope for AIDS-free generation

WASHINGTON – An AIDS-free generation was on the minds of more than 5,000 people who walked 5K Saturday.

The walkers and runners gathered for the 26th annual AIDS Walk at Freedom Plaza in northwest D.C. Saturday morning. The goal was to raise $1 million and awareness about the HIV/AIDS virus.

Chip Lewis, spokesman of Whitman Walker Health, a nonprofit that provides medical care for individuals touched by HIV/AIDS and the sponsor of the event, says the walk is important because the D.C. community comes together to take a stand against HIV/AIDS.

“I don’t think anybody who was here in 1987, when this first started, thought we would still be here doing this 26 years from now,” he says.

Lewis says the District has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and about one in 20 adults in D.C. has HIV.

“About half don’t know they have it. They’ve never been tested. They’ve never been diagnosed,” he adds.

The AIDS Walk is the clinic’s biggest annual fundraiser. Lewis says the clinic was among the first to respond to the AIDS epidemic and is committed to providing resources until the virus is finally over.

K.J. Jones participated in the walk with his group of military members called the “Secret Ops Family” – a name created before the military’s “Don’t Ask ,Don’t Tell” policy was repealed. The members came from Georgia, Washington, Texas, North Carolina and other areas to participate in the event for the first time.

“This is a show of support from the community as a whole,” Jones says. “You know, it’s not just a gay disease.”

The DC Cowboys, a gay male dance company that has performed at the event the last 18 years, gave their last performance at the AIDS Walk on Saturday.

The walk has raised $750,000 so far. Donations are still being accepted through the end of the year. Visit www.whitman-walker.org.

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

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