SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Over 7,000 people registered for The 2017 AIDS Walk in San Francisco in Golden Gate Park e
This year, organizers say the 10k walk and fundraiser will have more urgency and meaning than ever.
As crews set up chairs, tents and a large stage on the eastern side of the park, the SF AIDS Walk founder Craig Miller, reflected on the importance of the event.
"The sense that we're all in this together, looking out for one another, standing up for one another. That's what AIDS Walk San Francisco has been about since day one," said Miller.
For some, this Sunday's walk will be a moment to speak out about the debate in Washington D.C. over health insurance.
"We need everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area to come together on this Sunday before this key vote in the United States Senate," said Miller.
Many survivors living with HIV say they are terrified they might lose their health care. Tez Anderson has spent 34 years walking the fine line between life and death.
"They told me I had 2 years to live. And I was 24. So the idea that I'm 57...58 now, is unbelievable to me, but it comes with a lot of fear," said Anderson.
Anderson is founder of an AIDS survivor group named Let's Kick ASS (AIDS Survivors' Syndrome). He says he and others with HIV worry about changes to health insurance due to their pre-existing conditions.
"If they charge me more money for my meds every month and I'm barely getting by every month, how am I going to afford it," said Anderson, "A six-month period where I don't take my pills could be life or death for me."
San Francisco General Hospital was ground zero at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. This year, a portion of the famous AIDS quilt is on display in the lobby. Names such as Keith Haring cover patches of the quilt. It is a reminder of the early days of the AIDS epidemic when the hospital saw 5,000 HIV patients a year. Now that's down to 300 new cases annually.
Dr. Monica Gandhi has been at SF General Hospital for more than 30 years, treating patients with AIDS. She says the battle is still raging.
"The HIV epidemic is not over in the United States...we haven't seen the kind of reduction we wanted nationwide," said Dr. Gandhi, "We're doing quite well in the city of San Francisco. But it's not holding true for racial and ethinic minorities in the same way it is for white men, for example."
The theme for the AIDS walk this year is Resist, Respond, Reach Out.
The AIDS walk is Sunday July 16, 2017 at Golden Gate Park. The opening ceremony starts at 9:45 a.m. The walk begins at 10:30 a.m.