Nearly 20 years ago, the folks at AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City organized its first walk through the downtown streets. Now, it is preparing once again to turn Oklahoma City red on Sunday for the 19th annual walk and the 5K RED Run. And this year, for the first time, it is adding an inaugural 10K run.
The events begin 8:30 a.m. Sunday at OKC Farmers Public Market, 311 N. Klein Ave. The 5K and 10K runs take off at 10 a.m., followed by the walk at 2 p.m.
This event brings together a wide range of people, said Verna Meadows, AIDS Walk board president. The funds go toward education and prevention to reduce new infections and allows us to provide valuable financial support to metro-area nonprofits who continue this life-saving work.
More than 2,500 participants typically come out for the family-friendly event. Online fundraising is the easiest and most secure way to donate, Meadows said. Prizes will be awarded to those who raise the most money, and each participant in the 5K and 10K runs will be given a medal, with trophies for the top male and female finisher in each race.
HIV and AIDS occupy fewer headlines today than they did in the early days of the disease. The first cases were diagnosed in 1981 and were essentially a death sentence to those who became infected. Back then, life expectancy was typically 18 months as the disease progressed from HIV infection to AIDS.
Today, the face of HIV and AIDS has changed dramatically. Advancements in drug technology in the 1990s transformed the disease into more of a chronic, manageable illness. Yet the stigma remains.
The biggest issue I see facing us today is the stigma, Meadows said. You would think that with all the education there is on this disease, the stigma wouldnt still be an issue.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, more than 5,700 Oklahomans are currently living with the disease. And 65 percent of the newly diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS are between the ages of 20 and 39.
As with any sexually transmitted disease, HIV is preventable, and the only way to help reduce new cases is to talk about it openly and understand that casual contact will not transmit the disease, Meadows said.
Local nonprofit groups like RAIN Oklahoma are on the receiving end of funds raised through OKC AIDS Walk.
Because of funders like the OKC AIDS Walk and Red Run, we can offer direct services to those impacted by HIV/AIDS, said Julie Lovegrove, RAIN Oklahoma executive director.
The walk and run is open to people of all ages, and Lovegrove said even though she doesnt typically run, she did participate last year.
I was very proud to participate in my first 5K Red Run, along with my 76-year-old aunt, JoAnn, Lovegrove said. She finished first in her class and even dragged me across the finish line! So, if we can do it, anyone can! Its not only for a good cause; its also a lot of fun. I urge everyone to please come out and support this very worthwhile event.
print headline: Running red, OKC AIDS Walk returns for its 19th year.