Long Beach AIDS Ride
HIV/AIDS is a plague that never seems to be far from our community's consciousness. I find myself writing often about organizations and events battling this pandemic that has forever changed the LGBT community. And amidst the relentlessness of HIV/AIDS there stand activists and organizations that are just as relentless and indeed just as creative as this disease.
The Long Beach AIDS Ride (LBAR) was initially conceived last year as a way to financially support the Gay and Lesbian Center of Long Beach and the Comprehensive AIDS Resource and Education (C.A.R.E.) program at St. Mary Medical Center. Both organizations are engaged in the battle against HIV/AIDS and work hard to provide needed resources and support to those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The plan to launch the first annual Long Beach AIDS Ride was announced last December 1 on World AIDS Day and this year's event takes place the day before on Saturday, November 30.
Founded by Ron Sylvester and Miguel Gutierrez, LBAR is a fun and active way for community members to raise funds to help continue the fight against the disease. When asked why events like this are still important, Ron Sylvester commented, " HIV is still a growing problem. In Long Beach we have a HIV positivity rate almost twice as high compared to the average rate for all testing sites in Los Angeles County. Our testing program is diagnosing new positive cases each and every month."
Many of us in the LGBT community can forget how deadly and prevalent HIV/AIDS still is especially with the increasing availability of sophisticated drugs that can effectively manage the illness. Events like LBAR are crucial in engaging the community in reflection and activism against the epidemic.
Sylvester had this to say regarding common misconceptions in the LGBT community regarding HIV/AIDS: "While AIDS may not be the problem it once was, HIV infections are still happening everyday and still mean a chronic lifetime condition. While there are better medications to treat HIV today, there still isn't a cure. We still need events like this that to help raise money and fill in the gaps of funds provided to help create and sustain education, prevention and treatment programs in the community. In the case of LBAR, this is money that is raised by the Long Beach community which will stay in Long Beach and help other Long Beach residents. It truly is neighbors helping neighbors."
LBAR is hoping to attract between 100 and 150 riders who will then choose between a 40 mile or 75 mile ride down Southern California's coast. Participants can register to be either a rider or a fundraiser so there is a way to participate for everyone! Mr. Sylvester hopes that the event will grow each year. In the true spirit of activism and giving, he expressed his hopes for future growth by stating, "It's our hope that the event grows larger each year and we get to the point where we can eventually name additional beneficiaries for the funds raised."
Support for events like LBAR is crucial, especially in their first few years. HIV/AIDS is not something of the past and Ron Sylvester reminds us that, "Most of the new infections we see are within the 18-25 year old demographic. Information about safer sex practices and risk reduction clearly needs to be more of an emphasis on this group."
It is critical that younger LGBT people take charge of their health and ensure that this epidemic is slowed. We can begin to do so by supporting events like the Long Beach AIDS Ride and ensuring its success. Every community in California deserves the absolute best when it comes to treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. LBAR and events like it are counting on us to make that possible. SO LET'S GET TO WORK!
For more information or to register, call the Center Long Beach at 562.434.4455 or go to the Long Beach AIDS Ride website at longbeachaidsride.org