Taking the Necessary Steps

By Michelle Talsma Everson, November 2018 Issue.

Mothers, sons, daughters, fathers, partners, coworkers, students – and even dogs – will descend on downtown Phoenix Oct. 28 as fighters, allies, leaders, activists and fundraisers.

Since the event’s return in 2008, Aunt Rita’s Foundation has raised more than 2.7 million dollars and AIDS Walk Arizona has become the state’s largest gathering to advance the cause of HIV/AIDS funding and awareness.

“AIDS Walk Arizona is the largest community event statewide in support of Aunt Rita’s partnership with the City of Phoenix and the State of Arizona to effectively end HIV,” said Glen Spencer, executive director of Aunt Rita’s Foundation. “It’s critical that everyone – especially the LGBTQ community that is particularly impacted by HIV – support and participate in this event.”

This year, which marks Walgreen’s 10th year as a presenting sponsor, event organizers are anticipating 6,000 registered participants.

Nicole Begay and Heidi Ebbert, both of whom are living with HIV and champion efforts to educate all Arizonans about the importance of prevention and treatment, will co-chair this year’s event.

The main stage, vendor village and food trucks will be set up at Third Avenue and Washington Street, and additional entertainment stages will be set up throughout the course.

AIDS Walk Arizona 2018 will take place Oct. 28. Visit aidswalkaz.org for more information. Photo by nightfuse.com.

HIV Equal

Victor Avila, director of marketing and events for Aunt Rita’s, explained that this year’s event theme is HIV Equal.

“To be HIV Equal means to eliminate the stigma behind knowing your status,” he explained. “Whether you have tested positive or negative, being HIV Equal means you are taking the necessary steps to remain healthy by being well-informed about your diagnosis and being proactive about remaining in, or achieving, good health.”

This concept, he added, is intended to make everyone equal – regardless of their HIV status – and to eliminate the stigma.

“By eliminating the stigma behind an individual’s status, we [are]  … reducing the fear behind getting tested,” Avila said.


According to an Aunt Rita’s press release, this year’s event will celebrate the newly discovered science behind U=U, or undetectable equals untransmittable.

“We now know that HIV-positive individuals who are in treatment and have an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV,” Spencer emphasized. “HIV is 100 percent preventable and 100 percent treatable.”

This significant milestone in the global effort to end HIV gives momentum to the City of Phoenix’s UNAIDS Fast Track Cities Initiative, also known as the 90-90-90-0 campaign. The initiative has established a goal to end HIV by 2030, and U=U helps to reduce new infections, reduce HIV stigma and enable HIV-positive individuals to live complete lives, according to the Aunt Rita’s.

“HIV Equal ties into this message because everyone has a status, and it shouldn’t matter what your status is if you are [aware of it and] taking the steps necessary to be healthy – either treatment, or preventative measures,” Avila added.


Another milestone of this year’s event is the 10th anniversary of Barbra Seville’s Wonderful 100, a fundraising team headed by Richard Stevens who is known by his drag persona, Barbra Seville.

“By bringing 100 people together to raise $100 each, we’re helping in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but we’re also building a community and furthering the discussion,” Stevens said. “It’s been the crowning achievement in my life.”

Aunt Rita’s reported that Stevens’ team has raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars for Aunt Rita’s Foundation in the past nine years. (For more information on Barbra Seville’s Wonderful 100, click here.)

“While Stevens is quick to say that it’s not about him, it’s [instead] about his team of volunteers, it still takes a tireless advocate willing to host bake sales, drag performances and many other special events it takes to raise that kind of money,” Spencer said.

This year also marks the event’s final year in downtown Phoenix.

“In 2019, AIDS Walk Arizona is moving to Tempe Town Lake, and at a new time of year on the last Saturday in February,” Avila said. “Aunt Rita’s will continue partnerships with the City of Phoenix and commence new ones in the City of Tempe.”

30 Years Later

Randy Schrock, Gary Mangum and Skip O’Neill originally founded Aunt Rita’s in 1988, Spencer explained. Initially money was raised at an annual bake sale with funds administered by an all-volunteer group of community heroes to provide comfort care to people with AIDS, he added.

“Today, Aunt Rita’s maintains the grassroots spirit with a small and dedicated staff that provides philanthropic support to Arizona HIV service organizations, HIV education and outreach, advocacy initiatives and HIV prevention programming,” Spencer said. “AIDS Walk Arizona is Aunt Rita’s largest fundraiser and has allowed us to grant more than 1.8 million dollars to local nonprofits since 2005.”

All proceeds from AIDS Walk Arizona are grant funded to Aunt Rita’s family of 12 partner agencies, all of which provide services in Greater Phoenix and, together, form the continuum of care for both HIV prevention programs as well as treatment programs.

For more information on Aunt Rita’s, or its 12 partner agencies, visit auntritas.org.

Keep readingShow less
WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less