A week and a half away from AIDS Walk Orlando and there are just over 600 walkers singed up, down from 1200 walkers in 2014.

That’s according to Kristine Iverson, director of development and marketing for the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida, Inc.

So far this year, according to Iverson, walkers have committed to $90,000 in fundraising dollars. That’s in comparison to a total of $140,000 raised in 2014. The AIDS Walk is traditionally the second largest annual fundraiser for the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida and 2015 will be the event’s 20th year.

According to Iverson, the Central Florida area ranks eighth in new HIV/AIDS infections and around 20 percent of people who are infected with the virus do not know they have it.

“People may not be talking publicly about how they’re affected by the virus.” Iverson said. “I’d say I would wager that just about everyone knows someone that’s infected but they’re not talking about it.”

So why are this year’s AIDS Walk numbers down?

Iverson said personnel issues are partly to blame. Hope and Help currently does not have an events manager. That means other staff have been stretching thin to cover events duties – both paid and volunteer.

“We didn’t have a committee chair or any committee meetings at all for the [2015] Walk,” Iverson said.

To keep from finding themselves in the same situation down the road, Iverson said they’re shifting their volunteer recruitment focus from events-based to year-round.

“Typically, in the past, the support for volunteers have been for the events,” Iverson said. “We are working to engage them throughout the year.”

She believes volunteer committee meetings are the first step and they start next month.

“If someone has free time on their hands and they want to offer services the door’s always open for us to have dialogue and communicate about it,” Iverson said. “I believe anything can be created from a conversation.”

Those who want to help can sign up to walk, start a team or volunteer at AIDSWalkOrlando.org.

2015 AIDS Walk Orlando begins at 7:30 a.m. with on-site registration on March 28 at Lake Eola.

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