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Why I Walk
10/24/2012
  

 

Jeff & Noah

We hit the emergency room at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning.  I (Noah) had been struggling to catch my breath since the night before. Chest x-rays showed collapsed lungs and strange markings that could have been either pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or tuberculosis. A rapid HIV test came back positive. It was like a car crash. 

Jeff had to take on the world outside the emergency room: calling my family, my work, his family, his work. Just as the ground began to slip away from under him, he called his good friend Chip Lewis, who works at Whitman-Walker. Chip pulled Jeff together and so Jeff could hold everything else together. 

A few days later, and we’re still at the hospital. A doctor drops a full set of test results onto my hospital bed without explanation.  At the time it was so unbelievable… but I now think it was because there is an assumption that gay men know all about HIV/AIDS.  I think there is an assumption that we remain the most educated population. Speaking for Jeff and me, we aren't… or rather we weren't then. What we knew was 1985 AIDS. Those test results with CD4 counts and viral load numbers only meant bad news. 

Chip got us in touch with Justin Goforth, Director of Medical Adherence at Whitman-Walker. Justin took Jeff's call on a random Tuesday afternoon, and spent over an hour on the phone. Jeff sat next to my bed, reading each test result line, and Justin slowly explained what each number meant: serious implications but never hopeless. Thirty-six hours later, Justin came to see us at the hospital. He answered all of our questions and mapped out what the road to recovery would look like.

After 30 days in the hospital, I was able to go home. My recuperation was moving steadily but slowly. I wasn’t released back to work. The ripples of what had happened started to widen. I reached out to Whitman-Walker Legal Services to get some guidance on navigating my job and my future. Jessica Caspe, Senior Staff Attorney, took me through all the steps of what I would need to know and do as my health improved and I could re-enter the workforce.

It was around then that I looked for help facing the emotional implications of all this. In searching out a counselor, I found Lance Morgan, Max Robinson Center Day Treatment Program Director. At the time, his connection to Whitman-Walker seemed just a coincidence. After we started working together, it became obvious to me that I could not have been luckier to have him. Lance’s years of experience uniquely equipped him to help me get back on my feet. 

On January 10, 2010, I had 62 t-cells, advanced PCP, collapsed lungs, and a viral load over three million. My partner and I faced what looked like the end of the road--but step by careful step these good people from Whitman-Walker helped us walk away from that car crash and back to our lives.

Watch Jeff and Noah tell their story.



Why I Walk
10/17/2012
  

 

Toni

I’m walking in memory of all those who have died from HIV/AIDS.  I’m walking in support of those living with HIV/AIDS. And I’m also walking to remind the community that there is still no cure. Together we can walk or run to raise money to help those in need of assistance. Every time I participate in the AIDS walk, I feel hope in the air.

 

 

Watch Toni tell his story.



Why We Walk - NBC4
10/10/2012
  

 

Jackie Bradford, President and General Manager of NBC4

When AIDS Walk Washington began 26 years ago, Whitman-Walker was looking for a television station to step up and stand out. Many people didn’t really understand HIV and AIDS in those early days, and they thought a broadcast education campaign would help.  They came to us, and my predecessor all those years ago had the foresight, the wisdom and the heart to say "yes." And for 26 years, we’ve continued to say "yes," only now, we shout it louder, and we say it prouder.

More people understand HIV and AIDS now. Our city and our society are in a different place all these years later. But the statistics are still alarming, and there is more work to do. These diseases and what they have done to our family and friends has been heartbreaking. Who among us hasn’t watched someone we love fight with all his or her might, only to lose the battle against this powerful force? But many of us have also seen that fight turn victorious. So every single one of us also has hope. We have to. And events like AIDS Walk Washington make sure we see that light at the end of the tunnel shining strong. 

We live in a city that can do anything. The people who live here have the brain  trust to conceive the laws of the land and the power to enact them. So I’m so proud that NBC4 stands side by side with Whitman-Walker Health year after year so that we can put our minds and our hearts together and beat this disease.

This is why I walk as Jackie Bradford, president and general manager of NBC4.  And this is why we walk as a team from NBC4.

Watch the NBC4 team tell their stories.

Why I Walk
10/3/2012
  

 

Angela

I have participated in the AIDS Walk for many, many years, but now it is even more meaningful to me. Three years ago, I was seriously injured while participating in an international BASE jumping event in Norway. BASE jumping is an extreme sport involving the use of a parachute to jump from fixed objects such as bridges, buildings, and cliffs. I had had an amazing week as I completed 12 successful jumps into the beautiful Norwegian fjords. Then, on the last day of the event, I had a terrible accident that would change my life forever. On my 13th jump, as I was coming in to land under parachute, I collided foot-first with a large boulder – the very boulder I needed to clear to make it to the landing zone. At the moment of impact, I shattered my heel bone into more than 25 pieces and broke my ankle. When I flew back to the states to have surgery a week later, I was told four things: I may never walk normally again; I would never jump (on the ground) again; I would never run again; and I most certainly would never skydive or BASE jump again. So I spent the past few years proving them wrong. Not only do I walk normally, but I also run and skydive regularly.

So this year I will participate in the timed run during the AIDS Walk for two reasons: to attain a personal goal and, most importantly, to spread awareness about AIDS. I know there are individuals in DC who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS who were once told they wouldn’t be able to do something and have since proved their doctors wrong. I run for these strong-willed individuals, but I also run for individuals who have not yet been diagnosed.

Everyone should be tested for HIV. It is shocking to hear that DC has the highest rate of new AIDS cases per 100,000 people in the United States – a rate more than 12 times the national average. I am comforted in knowing that the money I will raise will go directly to Whitman-Walker Health for education, testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

So this year, I am, once again, co-leading my company’s team – Bates White, an economic consulting firm. For the third year in a row, with 19 screws in my foot and ankle, I will run with my team to raise awareness about AIDS and to support Whitman-Walker Health because we can make a difference. We can beat this.


Watch Angela tell her story.



Why I Walk
9/26/2012
  

 

Brian, Winner of the 2011 AIDS Walk 5K Run

Living in Washington DC, I am very aware of what a major health issue HIV/AIDS continues to be for the community. I am running to support that cause and raise awareness for it.

I plan to run the 5K this year. Being a DC resident for several years and also an avid runner, I regularly take part in races around the area for diverse causes such as affordable housing, the homeless and the public schools. I had been aware of the Whitman-Walker AIDS 5K but somehow, the first time I actually signed up to participate in it was last year’s walk/run on October 29.

Without exaggerating, the weather conditions were the toughest of any of the roughly 50 races in which I have participated: temperatures hovered in the 30s, the sky was deathly dark, and there was driving rain and a biting wind. To see so many throngs of people braving these harsh elements, and in such amazingly upbeat spirits, was very inspiring for me. So inspiring, in fact, I proceeded to sprint off into an early lead among the several hundred who ran the 5K. I think I was about the only person dressed in a singlet and shorts so part of my motivation in running so fast was simply to avoid a rapid onset of hypothermia. Sprinting up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, zigzagging through the cross streets, I kept thinking how odd a sensation it was to see no other runners in front of me: for once, I had to worry about not taking a wrong turn. Before I had time to think about it, I was sprinting across the finishing line and to my delight, I had won a race for the first time in my adult life. I could not bask in the glory for long however, as I needed to dash quickly to the bag check to add some extra layers to my body to avoid requiring medical attention.

 I hope that this year, when I come back to try to defend my title, the Gods will shine on us a little more benignly with the weather. But whether they do or not, I look forward to another fantastic experience for a great cause.


Watch Brian tell his story.




Why I Walk
9/20/2012
  

 

Scott

October 1997. Seventeen and new to all things metropolitan, I was introduced to DC while in the Marine Corps delayed entry program. A few months before my trip to DC, I found out about a walk going on and decided to volunteer for it in an attempt to get to know some locals and get to know the city that may become my home. I signed up for Heart Walk and spent the entire day working more than I think I had my entire life. At the end of the day, at volunteer check-out for the event, I received my t-shirt which clearly stated AIDS Walk Washington. This was my little "WTF" moment. I was then asked if I enjoyed my time volunteering and was told by the staff they looked forward to working with me again next year. Of course I agreed. Who wouldn’t want to volunteer for a group that lets you, at 17, drive a golf cart down the main streets of DC in traffic? COUNT ME IN!

2012 marks my 16th year with Whitman-Walker Health and AIDS Walk Washington. Over the years I have seen the Walk face many challenges and many more growing pains. I have managed finances, registration, prizes, volunteers and just about every other aspect of the event, all with one focus.

AIDS Walk's mission has remained true, in support of an amazing organization sporting the Whitman-Walker name. Every time I entered the WWH offices and climbed those old granite stairs, I knew I was a part of something amazing. Now in a newly remodeled building, the sense of pride and accomplishment continues to build, year after year. (I wish those who move in to the historic WWH building well on their stair climbs.)

In more recent years, being part of AIDS Walk has taken a much more personal meaning. Several years ago, I lost my closest friend to the epidemic. This friend was the first friend I ever made, at the grand age of five. We went through many aspects of life together: first girlfriends, first boyfriends, parties, graduations and even were EMTs together. We were practically brothers. The one thing he could never tell me was that he was infected with HIV. It wasn’t until a phone call days before he died that he told me, and that he apologized for not asking for help earlier. I now serve WWH to honor our friendship and to stand up to say there is NOTHING that cannot be overcome and in order to beat HIV/AIDS, it must be faced head on.

Though I have always been proud to serve Whitman-Walker Health and AIDS Walk Washington, THIS is why I put my foot down against HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C.

Watch Scott tell his story.




Why I Walk
9/12/2012
  

 

Chayla and Family

I am from Oakland, CA and have been an HIV/AIDS Health Educator/Advisor for over 10 years. I am a graduate of Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge and now reside in the DMV while I am working on my MPH. I have lived in places where the HIV/AIDS virus has a great presence.  I have met people from all walks of life who have been affected by HIV/AIDS in so many ways, mostly through educating, testing and needle exchange outreach. That brings me to my team.  

Some of my teammates have lost family due to complications with AIDS and others have seen them go through the life changing events, some with the support of their family but most without because of the their sexual orientation. Events like the AIDS Walk are one of the few places they can help and really show their support.

My husband will be walking to support me, my 14 month old son and new born daughter. They all will be participating for fun (my daughter is due August 16!). That's another reason I am walking! Women of child bearing age are the fastest rising group for infection and I want to help get the word out about protecting your unborn child.

Although I am HIV-negative,  people still look to me for guidance and now that I am pregnant I feel even more convicted to inform and educate women and men about their options and how to be safe going forward.


(Update: Chayla was pregnant with her daughter when she wrote this. Her daughter has since been born! Congratulations to Chayla and her family!)

Watch Chayla and her family (including a very excited son!) tell their story.





Why I Walk
8/24/2012
  

 

Kizzy Payne, Winner of the Florida Trip Contest

Why do I walk? I walk for my mother. I walk for my best friend’s mother. I walk so that every little girl who has a mother with HIV/AIDS can have her mother there to see her go to prom, see her walk across the stage at her high school graduation, see her off to college, see her marry the person she loves most. I walk for Whitman-Walker because they helped my mother with so much when she couldn’t do it herself. WWH is a big part of my life and you guys are shining stars to me. I walk for so many reasons that I cannot put into words.

I took my first steps for the AIDS Walk with my mother when I was about 12 years old. At the time, it was not something I wanted to do. I just remember her waking me up and telling me I was hanging out with her that day and when we got there, I was not happy. I wanted to go home and hang out with my friends. That was the longest walk ever for a 12 year old!

In 1996, a few months after my mom passed, Whitman-Walker came to my junior high school and had the AIDS quilt on display and they talked about the AIDS Walk. The first thing out of my mouth was “how can I join the walk?” I had so many people say "I’m going to walk with you," and the day before the walk, every one of my friends and family backed out on me. I was upset, but my mother’s words played in my head: “Kizzy you have to be your own leader, you can’t wait on someone to lead you.” So every year, I have people say that they will walk with me, and every year they back out and I can still hear her saying those words.

This year will be my 17thwalk. It is an amazing feeling when I get up early in the morning every year to walk for her. I love you, mom. Every day that I live is for you!!

© 2011 AIDS Walk Washington
1701 14th Street, NW - Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202.332.WALK
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