Every step helps to change the stigma of those with AIDS.
Nearly 300 people turned out Sunday afternoon to race in the 13th annual First Frost AIDS Walk/Run in Thompson Park.
“Knowledge and safety: that's what we're promoting,” said Michael E. Crinnin, executive director of AIDS Community Resources.
Primarily the race was to raise money to support the Teen AIDS Task Force program as well as help fill emergency needs for those who are HIV-positive in the north country. Racers contributed through individual fundraisers or a $25 registration fee.
Mr. Crinnin said the tone of the event has changed in the 13 years since it started.
“It used to be a memorial for those who died, but not so much anymore,” he said.
He said HIV-positive people did not want to join the walk because they did not want to be asked why they decided to run.
“Lots of local businesses have done fundraisers for us,” he said. “That just feels really good for our clients. It helps get rid of the stigma.”
Additionally, more people today realize that AIDS is caused by behaviors, and that those outside the stereotypical categories are not immune. By comparing it to a sexually transmitted disease, Mr. Crinnin said, more people realize they should be more careful and educate themselves.
“I believe alcohol is the leading cause of AIDS,” he said. “How many people have made stupid decisions after having a few drinks?”
Curt J. and Athena M. “Addie” Belohlavek, Carthage, ran as a family with their 8-month-old son, Abel, after learning about the race through a friend who ran last year.
“We have friends we know” with AIDS, Mrs. Belohlavek said. “We wanted to help out.”
Many of those who walked or ran the 5-kilometer path at Thompson Park did not know anyone with AIDS or HIV but supported the cause nonetheless.
“I saw a poster at Starbucks and decided to run,” said Kelsey M. Garvis, Fort Drum, who finished first. “I'm a nurse, and I like to support the medical cause and helping people.”
Crystal L. Nichols, who works at Samaritan Medical Center, heard about the run at the hospital. She said there is a group there that runs regularly.
Andrew Haug, Adams Center, found out through a weekly running club. This is his second year running the race.
“It's for a good cause and a challenge,” he said.