Hope & Help moves annual Orlando AIDS Walk back to the a.m.

By : Amanda Espinosa
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ABOVE: QLatinx marches in the 2018 Orlando AIDS Walk at Lake Eola. (Photo by Maia Monet)

ORLANDO | The Hope & Help Center of Central Florida, Inc. is bringing the annual AIDS Walk back to the morning hours at Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando on April 27.

“This year, the event returns to the morning,” announced Hope & Help’s Executive Director Lisa Barr on Facebook. “With the community’s support, we will continue to work hard in reducing new HIV transmissions in our area. Every step we take around Lake Eola is a step towards progress.”

Joshua J. Myers, Hope & Help’s community developmental director, says that while Hope & Help had a positive response from attendees moving the event to the evening, they decided to move it back to the morning to help increase attendance.

“After taking a survey, we realized more people could participate in the morning because they were working in the evening.,” Myers says.

The last two years Hope & Help hosted the Orlando AIDS Walk in the evening time, turning out around 500 walkers in 2018 raising $43,500 and around 700 walkers in 2017 raising $60,000. That’s a decline from 2015 when the morning AIDS Walk brought out 1,400 walkers and raised more than $120,000.

Last year’s event also had to be moved from the usual April timeframe to an earlier date in February due to the amount of competing events in the area during the spring.

This year’s Orlando AIDS Walk kicks off at 7:30 a.m. starting at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre located at Lake Eola Park. Registration is $25 per walker and includes a free Orlando AIDS Walk T-shirt.

Along with the walk, Hope & Help will be hosting a vendor fair featuring local companies, food trucks and more. Hope & Help will also provide HIV and hepatitis C testing at the event. The test results are 100% confidential and individuals will receive their results in less than 20 minutes.

“Last year we tested 46 people, and we’re hoping to double that this year,” Myers says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health report that Orlando has the second highest HIV/AIDS transmission rate in the nation and Florida is ranked first in new HIV and AIDS cases. According to Hope & Help’s website, the organization plans to use the funds raised to prevent new HIV transmissions through its free HIV screenings, combined primary and HIV care, safer sex education and case management services for people living with HIV.

“Our community is at risk. Orlando is now number two for new HIV transmissions in U.S. cities. People are vulnerable,” Myers says. “They might not know about available resources. We need the community’s support to help spread the word.”

Hope & Help, which began in 1995, is a registered not-for-profit health center, complete with a medical clinic, offering all-inclusive medical treatment for people living with HIV. Services include combined primary and HIV medical care, lab work, medication assistance, case management, PEER support and more.

The Orlando AIDS Walk and the Hope & Help Gala (formerly known as the Headdress Ball) are the organization’s two biggest fundraising events each year which combined help to bring more than $100,000 back to the nonprofit.

For a full list of Hope & Help services and events, visit HopeAndHelp.org.

If you would like to participate in this year’s AIDS Walk as a walker, donor or to become a sponsor, visit AIDSWalkOrlando.org or call 407-645-2577, ext 110.

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