Orlando – The Hope and Help Center of Central Florida is raising funds and awareness for the 20th year in a row via the Orlando AIDS Walk at Lake Eola on March 28.
Kristine Iverson, director of development and marketing for the Hope and Help Center, said the organization has been highlighting why participants will be walking this year.
“One perspective is a mother whose son is HIV positive,” Iverson said. “So she’s not only walking for her son, but all sons of the world.”
Other reasons are fitness and in memory of someone lost to HIV/AIDS.
“It’s a great community event,” Iverson said.“They’re simply coming out to support something that they believe in and they find it enjoyable.”
Javier Araya, a walker for Hilton Grand Vacations United and one of 2015’s top donors, will attend his first AIDS Walk Orlando. Araya said he asked for $5 or more on his Facebook page to aid his fundraising efforts. Less than a month before the walk, he has raised $1,220.
“I want to eradicate the stigma that HIV only happens to gay people,” Araya said. “I really think it stops people from living their lives.”
Other new features this year are a fundraising push from Walgreens, which is giving customers the ability to donate at checkout in thirty local stores and free rides (up to $20) to the event courtesy of Uber. Download the app and use the promo code AIDSWALKORL to request your free ride.
The Hope and Help Center has provided help and support to those living with HIV/AIDS since 1988. They have eight locations throughout Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties.
The Central Florida area has 12,500 individuals living with HIV/AIDS and ranks eighth in the nation in new cases. The fastest growing age range is 13-29, according to Iverson, and 20 percent of those with HIV are unaware of their infection. A mobile testing unit will provide free testing on-site.
“This event truly is the Hope and Help Center fulfilling its mission and making an impact in Central Florida,” Iverson said.
Want to join or create a team? Visit AIDSWalkOrlando.org for more information.