When my big brother Karl died of AIDS in July of 2000, it changed my life forever. I struggled with the fact that I did not support my brother as he battled this horrific disease. My family never really talked about Karl being HIV positive because of the many assumptions, stereotypes, and the stigma associated with this disease. We could have and should have done more to support him. What my family failed to realize is that HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. My hope is that one day, we will deal with HIV/AIDS patients in the same compassionate way as we deal with people diagnosed with other diseases such as cancer.
For years I dealt with the guilt of not supporting Karl and vowed that I would somehow help educate the public and do my part in making a difference. One day while watching the Logo Channel, I saw a documentary highlighting AIDS/Life Cycle. I learned that this seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles raises money and awareness about HIV/AIDS.
I was so inspired that I signed up, even though I had never ridden a bicycle for more than 15 miles at one time. On June 9th this year, I completed my sixth AIDS/Life-Cycle ride; I truly love the experience and the community that is formed during those seven days. I have met lifelong friends who I cherish and communicate with on a regular basis. I am filled with joy as I cross the finish line in Los Angeles and am greeted with loving hugs from my adorable partner Jim, family members, and friends. I am already looking forward to riding next year.
Since joining the AIDS/Life-Cycle Family, I have been inspired to become a HIV certified test counselor, HIV local planning committee member, and chair of the Chico AIDS Walk Planning Committee.
HIV/AIDS is a community issue – if one person has this disease, everyone does.