Robb Reichard, Executive Director of Philadelphia’s AIDS Fund, and, from the Missoni Center, Larry Benjamin, Director of Communications and Christie Eastburn, Care Services Assistant Director, discussed the 32nd Annual AIDS Walk Philly, raising funds for the most vulnerable HIV/AIDS patients. Robb spoke about the changing mission of AIDS Fund, originally an organization caring for AIDS patients in their final days, to coordinating services for those living with HIV, to now funding 10 area agencies that provide the direct services and care. AIDS Fund steps in with emergency relief for rent or replacement medical devices. Robb notes they fund the most basic needs, especially beds, because ‘you can’t be healthy if you’re sleeping on the floor.’ He reminds us that many people living with HIV can have other illnesses, including diabetes, so AIDS Fund will fund refrigerators, required for keeping insulin and HIV medicines cold. Larry and Christie, described the Missoni Center, a beneficiary of AIDS Walk Philly each year. The Center provides medical and other aid to the LGBTQ community, offering basic medical testing and treatment, help in coordinating social services and insurance and acting as case managers. They also offer a weekly walk-in clinic for youth, noting many LGBTQ youth are suffering from homelessness and other risk factors for AIDS, abuse and exploitation. They all discussed AIDS in the Philadelphia area, where there are at least 32,000 people living with HIV, they spoke about testing successes but note that many do not follow up with care and many physicians do not offer PREP. Robb pointed out that some communities are more vulnerable to HIV, including young gay men and people of color, citing Philadelphia’s great poverty as a factor. He also spoke on their new initiative, Getting to Zero, zero stigma, infections and deaths.
The 32nd AIDS Walk Philly is October 21st at the Art Museum steps. The event will kick off with information tents and a presentation of the AIDS Quilt, followed by a reading of names of those lost. There will also be an aerobic warm-up. The 5K will follow Martin Luther King, Jr Drive. For more information or to sign up, visit AIDSWALKPHILLY.org.