AIDS Walk (copy)

An AIDS Walk Long Beach in 2017 allowed groups to walk together. This year's fundraiser will be a virtual affair.

In 2017, the LGBTQ Center Long Beach relaunched the annual AIDS Walk event to help support the nonprofit and the programs it's affiliated with.

Before that, the walk was hosted by the Long Beach AIDS Foundation, which shut down in 2014.

"One thing this pandemic has done is remind us that things can change at any time, and we just have to make those adjustments," Ismael Salamanca, Center LB's health services director, said. "So this year, the AIDS Walk is a little different."

An AIDS Walk event happening during a normal year would call for participants in matching red shirts walking along the beach path greeting photographers and other beach-goers with smiles and waves.

But this year, the scene looks slightly different. 

With social distancing in mind, the Center LB team designated five walking routes located at Colorado Lagoon, Dominguez Gap South, El Dorado Park Nature Center, Heartwell Park West and the downtown waterfront. People can walk one route or walk them all and are encouraged to post selfies and videos using the hashtag "#AidsWalkLB2020" to show support for the cause and help create an online presence.

All participants will receive a red shirt and a medal, and people who raise more than $50 will receive a mask.

"This is something new and different, and while we would like to see the event as it normally is with all of the people and excitement and camaraderie in one space, we're truly embracing this year for what it is," Salamanca said. "You have to keep looking ahead and go with the punches."

The money raised by the event goes toward organizations partnered with The Center, including the AIDS Food Store, Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center’s CARE Program and the Bickerstaff Clinic at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

And spreading awareness about HIV and AIDS is as important as ever because stigmas continue to exist surrounding those viruses is still ever-present, Salamanca said. 

"I'm still testing people newly diagnosed with HIV," he said. "I am still having to have conversations with folks that coming out with HIV won't get you fired from your job or get you kicked off a sports team.

"Awareness, and treatment, is still essential — and needed."

To register for the annual AIDS Walk happening this Sunday, Nov. 15, go to centerlb.org/AidsWalkLB.

Additionally, because of the lack of fundraisers due to the pandemic in 2020, teams will still be able to raise money through their AIDS Walk team profiles through the end of the year.

For more information about the LGBTQ Center Long Beach, go to centerlb.org.

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