Supporters Show at Lake Merritt for Annual AIDS Walk

Kevin Vera

East Bay community members walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland to show their suport for the HIV / AIDS community.

The Fifth Annual East Bay AIDS Walk took place around the perimeter of Lake Merritt where hundreds of individuals showed their support by walking the 3.1 mile loop last weekend.

Public figures such as congresswoman Barbara Lee and Mayor Jean Quan welcomed the crowd and initiated the walking part of the event- at 10am.

“I’m out here with my family walking around the lake multiple times because we want to show we care and we want to be supportive of the difficult situation many people find themselves in,”

said Alameda resident Manuel Erazo. “Not just in the East Bay but all over the world.”

Erazo, like several of the supporters who showed up, has no immediate relation to AIDS or HIV. However, charitable intentions have driven hundreds of individuals to support the East Bay community in hopes of helping AIDS victims overcome the difficulties that come with the disease.

“There is no current cure for AIDS and while it’s partially treatable, the possibility of living a normal life and having the opportunity to procreate a healthy family is almost impossible,” Erazo said. “That’s why we’re here, wishing these people a happier life and raising awareness so that the AIDS or HIV community knows that they’re not alone in this fight.”

In 2009, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS reported that there were approximately 33.3 million people living with the virus worldwide.

Yet a press release from the World Health Organization stated that new HIV infections are down 17 percent worldwide with the majority of the progress coming from sub-Saharan Africa.

Supporters accentuate Walgreen’s involvement as a sponsor.

“As daunting of a task as it may be, it’s complicated,” said Oakland resident Leticia Scheyer. “As the mother of a young man who lives with the virus, it is my obligation to support him and anyone struggling with this lifestyle because I know how hard it is.”

Among the many event partners present at the East Bay AIDS Walk, Walgreens, Comcast, East Bay Express, AIDS Healthcare foundation and The Alameda County Public Health Department were some of the sponsors at the event, drawing over $30,000 in pledges and donations.

Of the hundreds of individuals who attended the event, many families were directly involved in the issue.

Many of them believed that there was still hope for the future of their loved ones and refrained from being pessimistic about the possibility.

“I know my son will live the healthiest life he can and seeing all these people here today has given us strength to continue the fight,” Scheyer said.