Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 14
AIDS/LifeCycle riders make a pit stop in Santa Maria
BY AMY ASMAN
Little Orphan Annies, Minnie Mouses, and taproom wenches cycled through the streets of Santa Maria on June 6 as part of the annual AIDS/LifeCycle ride. The 545-mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles raises money to pay for essential services for people living with HIV/AIDS, and includes participants from all over the world who are HIV- positive and negative, gay and straight.
The seven-day ride started on June 2 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, with stops along the way in Santa Cruz, King City, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Ventura. It ended on June 8 at the Veterans Affairs Center in West Los Angeles.
Ryan McKeel, communications director for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said participants raised approximately $14.2 million.
“That’s a million more than the record that was set two years ago,” he said.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation will split the funds with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to pay for medical care, mental-health services, HIV screening and prevention, and more.
McKeel said the ride also serves as a reminder to the public that HIV/AIDS is still a threat.
“There are still people who are getting ill or dying from AIDS, and that shouldn’t be happening. We have the tools to keep people alive,” he said. “It’s an epidemic that still needs to be fought. And we’re constantly facing cuts in funding from the government, so events like these are really important.”
According to information gathered by AIDS/LifeCycle, there are more than 150,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in California. Approximately 1.1 million people live with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and close to one fifth of people infected with HIV don’t know they’re infected. More than 30 million people have died worldwide of AIDS-related illnesses since the epidemic began in the 1980s.
The riders camped at Preisker Park in Santa Maria before making the trek to Lompoc.
“We love that campground and we love getting up in the morning, putting on our obnoxious costumes, and riding through town as everyone cheers us on,” McKeel said. “Santa Maria is such a warm and welcoming community.”