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Regina Gazelle Wells, who overcame serious struggles with substance abuse to become a committed trans activist and advocate for trans individuals affected by homelessness, substance abuse and HIV, and Elijah Palles, whose drag stage name is Eddie Broadway and is Mr. Trans USA 2020, will co-chair AIDS Walk Arizona & 5K Fun Run scheduled Feb. 19, 2022 at Tempe Beach Park, 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway.

“Having Regina and Elijah as co-chairs is important on so many levels,” said Aunt Rita’s Foundation Executive Director Jimmy Thomason. “First, the trans community and the people living with HIV/AIDS, a disease that impacts every segment and demographic of our society, have something in common: we never thought we’d have a ‘happily ever after.’ This is When. We. Rise. Second, of course, because they’re both incredibly fun!”

Regina Gazelle

Regina, a trailblazer and trans activist representing the LGBTQ+ community whose stage name is Regina Gazelle, has been a long-time supporter of Aunt Rita’s efforts to raise funds.

An Arizona resident since 1975, she has been trans since she was 14. Today, at 63 and 24 years clean and sober, she has dedicated her life to maximum service to others. Regina, who is HIV negative, started one of the Valley’s first all-transgender recovery halfway houses. Among her numerous awards was being the first transgender woman awarded Echo Magazine’s Woman of the Year. She also was a former Grand Marshall of PRIDE.

"My goals and mission for this year are to raise as much funds as possible for Aunt Rita's Aids Walk. To bring more awareness to the trans community. To continue to be a voice that can penetrate this positive message to all cultures and communities," said Gazelle Wells.

During his ten years as a drag entertainer in the Valley, Elijah has held a number titles including Mister Phoenix Pride 2014, Mister USofA MI 2017 and Emperor to Reign XIII of the Imperial Court of Arizona, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to unite the LGBTQ+ and heterosexual communities through charitable fund raising through 65 chapters in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Outside of performing, Elijah is a mental health therapist primarily assisting the transgender/gender non-conforming community with their transitions and mental health concerns. He is newly diagnosed with HIV.

Elijah Palles

"Being involved in the mission of HIV prevention and treatment so soon after my own diagnosis in September 2020 is humbling. People don’t know those who are newly diagnosed because it usually takes time for individuals to come out about it," said Palles.

"My mission at AIDS Walk Arizona is to assist those who are both newly diagnosed or longterm survivors who are uncomfortable about their status in knowing that they can open up about their diagnosis and break the stigma. As a trans male, I also want to stand up and be counted. I want to help everyone understand that their voice matters."

AIDS Walk Arizona, Aunt Rita’s Foundation’s largest single event raising funds and awareness of HIV and AIDS, raised more than $150,000 in 2021 for Aunt Rita’s 14 partner agencies.

AIDS Walk Arizona and 5K Fun Run will begin with registration at 1 p.m. The Walk starts at 3 p.m. at Tempe Beach Park. The course will take walkers and runners across the Mill Avenue Bridge and entertainment will be provided throughout the route. Additional details are being finalized and will be announced in the coming months, including for an after party.

Walkers can begin registering in the fall as individuals, as a team or make donations to walkers to help reach fundraising goals by visiting www.auntritas.org.

Stay tuned for more information about AIDS Walk Arizona in the coming months.

"Those who are out about their HIV status often get asked 'That’s still a thing?' Yes, yes, it is. AIDS Walk Arizona is an annual opportunity for those in the HIV community and our allies to have a voice and use this platform to inform Arizona that the only way we can end HIV is if individuals take safety precautions – including a single pill a day regimen that prevents HIV transmission, get tested, know your status, and get treatment if needed," said Jimmy Thomason.

"Within weeks of a person finding out they are HIV+ and getting on treatment, they can be undetectable. This means that the virus cannot be transmitted to another individual and they can live a normal, healthy, and happy life. It all starts with awareness; and that’s why Aunt Rita’s Foundation and AIDS Walk Arizona will be here until HIV ends."

For more information about Aunt Rita’s Foundation, visit www.auntritas.org.

Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

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The worlds of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms have completely revolutionized the fitness industry. Social media has, seemingly overnight, transformed virtually every facet of how we do business in fitness. It has forever changed information access, coaching, marketing, group accountability, perceptions of ideal physiques, trends and so on.

Love it or hate it, it seems as though social media is here to stay. So, I’ve put together my Trainer Tia’s Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to combining your favorite social media platform with your fitness journey.

Do vet the accounts you follow.

Social media can be a vast resource for knowledge, motivation and accountability. These are the three biggest things that most people want from a trainer or other fitness guide. If you find the right accounts to follow (easier said than done), you can get all three of these things for free! So, how does one find the right accounts to follow? Here are some pointers on what to avoid that will help you make that determination.

First, avoid profiles trying to sell things or recruit people to sell things (read: pyramid scheme). If they are constantly giving “shoutouts,” referrals, discount codes and tags, they are probably not in it for you – this kind of user is posting to promote themselves. Be wary taking advice from people who don’t want to really help you, in the end.

woman in brown turtleneck sweater covering her face with her hand Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Also, avoid putting a lot of stock in profiles that don’t reflect your values (i.e. if you’re a vegan bodybuilder, I’d advise against following the bodybuilders who worship the animal protein part of their process). This is different for everyone, so you’ll know when you see it. Just know it’s OK to hit unfollow.

Last, but not least, avoid thirst traps (unless you’re into that kind of thing, of course). If someone looks amazing but fails to accurately relay the details of their workout program, goals, or progress, just realize that they’re best classified as eye candy and not a fitness authority. And that’s OK too.

Don’t overwhelm your followers with nudes parading around as “progress pics.”

Let’s be real, there’s already enough of that out there. Tasteful displays of physiques are one thing, but when 80 percent of your pictures are in the same booty-popped pose with way too much skin, you’re probably not taking “progress pics” anymore.

Do ask for advice and help from your favorite fitness guides.

Again, this information is free and can go a long way. Let your favorite accounts know what you’d like to see or learn and I can almost guarantee that, if they care about their reputations, they’ll answer your questions. Give it a shot. You’re not the only one who wants to know that particular answer, I promise you.

Don’t be fooled by fool’s gold.

Meaning, don’t feel compelled to try that “amazing new ab shredder guaranteed to give you a six pack in six days” … it’s not going to work. Tag your trainer friend on the post or ask your trainer if that movement or program actually works. More than likely, it’s just another sensational marketing ploy that doesn’t actually transform your body. Remember, the old school basic movements have been around for thousands of years for a reason: because they work! This new fad, diet, juice/shake, program that looks seem too good to be true – is most likely a waste of your time. Instead, find profiles that relay the realistic amount of hard work and dedication that it takes to have an ideal physique. Remember, results take time!

Blue Facebook Thumb Up Blue Facebook Thumb Up Photo by Jackson So on Unsplash

Do participate!

Like that picture. Tag your fitness friends on something that you like. Post your story with courage and belief in yourself. With the new algorithms in social media, this will result you seeing more of what you like in your feed. It’s not like you have a finite number of “likes” that you can give out. Be liberal with your liking, it lets the platform know what you’d like to see more of. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and engage with the users you admire or the content you are interested in.

Don’t compare yourself to those heavily edited photos of perfection.

I write about this frequently because it’s so prevalent. Remember, Photoshop is an incredible editing tool that can completely alter a physique, before/after comparisons, adjust lighting, draw in shadows/cuts, slim a waist, enlarge a bicep, and much more. Many photos you see on social media are not real. Please remember this when you’re comparing yourself to anything you scroll past!

Social media has become a huge part of our daily lives, and it certainly has its own decorum. Hopefully, these Do’s and Don’ts give you a taste of how a professional sees fitness and social media working (and not working) together. In the end, though, it’s your journey so customize as you see fit.

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