Community

Taking steps to eradicate HIV/AIDS

Community invited to AIDS Walk Kitsap 2008.

The Kitsap County HIV/AIDS Foundation is hosting AIDS Walk Kitsap 2008, a grassroots effort aimed at raising funds and awareness around HIV and AIDS, tomorrow at the Bremerton Harborside. Registration begins at noon, with the walk stepping off at 1 p.m.

“I encourage people to do the walk for the opportunity to meet the community, but also to encourage support for the foundation and what it does for the community,” said Natalie Bryson, the foundation’s former president.

Bryson, a long-time advocate of HIV/AIDS awareness, said the economy’s recent slide has hit the HIV/AIDS Foundation especially hard this year, making fund-raising events like the AIDS Walk more important than ever.

“The economy is an issue, the cost of food, the cost of transportation,” she said. “This is a crucial time for us, the economic times are difficult.”

The Foundation, according to Executive Director Michael Goodnow, delivers meals and groceries to clients affected by the disease to ensure their nutritional needs are met, hosts monthly congregate dinners, advocates prevention in the youth population and makes funds available to clients for assistance and advocacy.

Goodnow’s hope is to combat the cost of living by raising enough money through the AIDS Walk to keep those services alive.

“We’ve had a particularly tough year this year,” he said, explaining that the foundation has exhausted its emergency existence fund.

Those funds, Goodnow added, are reserved for those infected with HIV/AIDS in desperate situations who have nowhere else to turn, as medical costs alone often times leave their pockets empty.

“We’re sort of a last resort,” Goodnow said. “One financial crisis can make them homeless.”

Last year’s walk attracted about 100 supporters, generating upwards of $25,000. But as of Thursday, only 80 walkers were registered for tomorrow’s walk.

Consequently, the Foundation has adjusted its 2008 fund-raising goal to $20,000. That number hovered just above $16,000 on Thursday.

Every little bit helps, however, and Goodnow encourages people to make any amount of donation even if they can’t make the walk.

“We’re in the final push to make our goal,” he said, explaining how many small donations can translate into a large sum.

Bryson said HIV/AIDS also impacts the family and friends of those with the disease, meaning its affect is far-reaching.

“It’s a very wide range of people,” she said.

But regardless of the funds raised or walkers registered, Bryson thanked the community for its support.

“Appreciation to the community and for the support that’s been given in the past,” she said. “We are very fortunate in Kitsap County to have caring people.”

To register for the walk, make a general donation or form a team, visit www.aidswalkkitsap.org or call (360) 698-3335.

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