AIDS Walk Arizona 2014

By Desi Rubio, Oct. 23, 2014.

Jeremy and Kelly of Red Ribbon Tutu. Photos Courtesy of Aunt Rita's Foundation.

Planning, outreach and fundraising efforts converge on the streets of downtown Phoenix Oct. 26 as part of seventh annual AIDS Walk Arizona and 5K Run.

While Phoenix’s first AIDS walk in took place in the 1980s, and was managed by AIDS Project Arizona in the two decades that followed, the event went dormant in 2001 due to lack of funding.

In 2008, Aunt Rita’s Foundation, an organization that raises and distributes funds to Central Arizona programs that prevent HIV/AIDS or assist those living with HIV/AIDS, presented its first walk. In the years since, the event has raised millions of dollars — and immeasurable awareness — for the cause.

“We are hoping for the biggest year yet,” said CJ Minott, Aunt Rita’s Foundation events director. “We are planning to raise more money and exceed last year’s turnout.”

This year, Minott expects to meet their fundraising goal of $500,000 and to see an estimated 6,000 participants.

Money raised will then be equally distributed among 17 partner agencies that provide supportive services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS throughout the Valley.

According to, HIV affects or infects more than 15,000 people in the state of Arizona, and 40 percent of Arizonans have never had an HIV test.

“About 40 percent of people have never had an HIV test and this can lead to more infections,” Minott explained. “The AIDS walk is a general outreach to the public to be aware and seek services.”

Team Hyatt Regency Phoenix. Photos Courtesy of Aunt Rita's Foundation.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there are approximately 50,000 new infections each year.

“If someone knows they are HIV positive, it is important that they get care and stay in care because then they are 95 percent less likely to pass it on,” Minott said, “We can definitely put a stop to the increase.”

Aunt Rita’s Foundation and the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS are two examples of the agencies that people living with HIV/AIDS can turn to for resources and support. And, according to Minott, these agencies provide people the tools and resources they need when seeking for information on testing or where to get medical care.

“It is our team goal to bring awareness and give back to the community members who are experiencing difficulties,” said Diane Russell, co-captain of Barbra Seville’s Wonderful 100, a team that’s raised more than $80,000 in five years. “We should make sure people are feeling safe and cared for.”

Team Krazzy Latinos. Photos Courtesy of Aunt Rita's Foundation.

Event registration fees are $30 to walk and $35 to run the 5K (an additional $5 because it is a chip-timed race). Participants can sign up as individuals, as teams or as sponsors for another walker or runner. And, for $10, participants can register their four-legged companions to take part in the event’s Paws for the Cause.

Because the need for awareness and assistance is so great within our community, Minott said the event is the ideal place to reach out to local agencies, get information and meet supporters as well.

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