AIDS walk gives disease visibility, raises money

Posted May 03, 2009, at 11 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — More than 100 people walked in the downtown area Saturday, raising awareness that HIV-AIDS is still a problem in Maine, the country and the world.

“Until the disease goes away, we’re not going away,” Patsy Murphy of the Eastern Maine AIDS Network said before the event. “HIV-AIDS is still an issue. It’s still a problem.”

The Bangor AIDS Walk was one of nine held across the state over the weekend to spotlight the disease and raise funds to support programs that help those living with the virus and efforts to prevent its spread.

“We’ve got dogs and babies” and Mardi Gras beads, Murphy said Saturday as she walked with the group of around 120 people along the Penobscot River waterfront. “We’re getting toots and waves” from people along the route.

The Eastern Maine AIDS Network was able to raise more than $4,000 in pledges, and all of the funds raised statewide will be matched by the National AIDS Fund in partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

“The dollars raised here stay here,” Murphy said.

Even in these hard economic times, residents of Maine have been very giving, said Andrew Bossie of the Maine AIDS Alliance, based in Augusta.

“We have exceeded last year,” he said. “We’re due to raise over $50,000 statewide, all to be matched by the national AIDS network. I’m pretty pumped.”

The locally raised funding is critical because state and federal dollars have decreased over the past several years, he said.

Statewide, more than 1,200 people are living with HIV, the precursor to AIDS, and an estimated 500 others are believed to be infected and don’t know it, Bossie said.

“People should go out and get tested … to help fight this,” he said.

While the number of confirmed cases each year is relatively low, more people are testing positive for the disease nowadays than a decade ago, Bossie said.

“The crazy thing is 10 years ago, in ’89, we had 32,” he said. “The number was 46 last year and 50 the year before that.”

Those interested in finding out more about HIV-AIDS or who want to make a donation may contact Bossie at the Maine AIDS Alliance, 899-9983.

nricker@bangordailynews.net

990-8190

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