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 reading Show less
Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

The Best Cannabis Edibles for 2023

Disclaimer: Please note there are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

I think we’ve all been there back in the day when we smoked our first joint, and then some, (sorry mom)–hacking, coughing, and choking on the herbaceous weed. Nowadays, there are several products on the market that produces the same effects but without a sore throat like the popular cannabis edibles.

Keep reading Show less
a person holding a padlock in front of a window

As an LGBTQ+ patient, you should be able to expect the same high-quality care provided to all patients. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily always prove to be the case. There remains a notoriously significant disparity in healthcare outcomes for LGBTQ+ patients, often related to issues with discrimination among providers.

Even when you find a good physician, this doesn’t mean that everyone interacting with your healthcare information will be as respectful or responsible. It is, therefore, important to be vigilant about how your data is handled. You have a right to privacy just as you have an expectation of fair treatment.

Keep reading Show less

National Margarita Day

A lot of us have really picked up an interest in tequila and it's no wonder. Its popularity is soaring in the U.S. and doesn't look like it'll be slowing down any time soon. The only contender would probably be whiskey. Meh, but they have their own day. Now, it's National Margarita Day and we put together some of the best margarita recipes around so you can pick one or maybe even all of them to try.

We have a few surprises in there too. Maybe it's not all about tequila but it certainly has a theme going on. Take a look at some of these great tequila brands and start making some amazing margaritas today!

Keep reading Show less