The organization will distribute a total of $190,000 to area HIV/AIDS service organizations, returning 70 percent of total funds raised to beneficiary organizations at a check presentation ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, at Hot Italian, 1627 16th Street, Sacramento.
A record 96 cyclists, along with 30 volunteer crew members—who also raised money—participated in the four-day, 330-mile cycling fundraiser in 2011. Established in 2005, the event has raised more than $1 million for non-profit HIV/AIDS service organizations in Sacramento and Northern California. Beneficiary organizations in 2011 are CARES, Breaking Barriers, and Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center, all of Sacramento; Sierra Foothill AIDS Foundation of Auburn; Caring Choices of Chico; Shasta Trinity Tehama HIV Food Bank of Redding; Golden Rule Services of Sacramento; and HARM Reduction Services of Sacramento.
In addition to the challenges of fundraising during an economic recession, organizations dedicated to HIV/AIDS services face the public misperception that advanced new treatments have ended the danger of infection. According to Emily Tsuchida, a Nurse Practitioner at CARES, a Sacramento health care provider for people living with HIV/AIDS, such misinformation may result in new infections, particularly among youth. Currently CARES treats 92 HIV-infected youth under age 25—82 males, most of whom are gay, and 10 females, most of whom are heterosexual. Nationally, one quarter of new HIV infections occur among adolescents and young adults ages 13-29, according to the CARES Website.
“I have been working in HIV for many years and never has my patient case load been so young,” Tsuchida said. “It seems to me that the youth are not using condoms, and that is what is so concerning. HIV is completely preventable in this country, and yet the rates of infection are not coming down. The attitude of many young people is either that HIV is not really here or ‘If I get it, it’s not a big deal.’ Perhaps the message that the treatment is so good has curbed the fear.” In fact, although HIV today is commonly treated as a chronic condition rather than a terminal illness, the new treatment regimens have created a new set of problems: medication side effects and health impacts, costs of long-term medical care, and a new generation of at-risk individuals who are unaware of the hazards. “There is so much more that needs to be done with the HIV negative youth as well as the positive folks who continue to spread the virus,” Tsuchida said. “That is the power of the NCAC ride, as it can provide funds for education and discussion that would otherwise be unavailable.”
Craig Spatola, executive director of beneficiary agency Breaking Barriers, which provides transportation to medical appointments to people living with HIV/AIDS and Rapid HIV Testing and Prevention services, has crewed NorCal AIDS Cycle since its inception. “With cutbacks in funding for HIV/AIDS organizations at the federal, state and local levels, private fundraising efforts such as NorCal AIDS Cycle are literally what is keeping agencies like ours, and the individuals we serve, alive. We wouldn’t be open today if not for the support of NCAC. It is amazing what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish!” Spatola said.
Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center board member and first-time NorCal AIDS Cycle cyclist Jacob Rowe said he has been inspired by the generosity demonstrated by cyclists, crew members and donors. “As a first-time cyclist, I was blown away by the generosity of our donors and the cyclists and volunteers who devote many hours in training and fundraising to this critically important cause,” Rowe said. “It’s inspiring to realize that, even in such a tough economic environment, individuals are willing to sacrifice in order to help provide essential services and life-saving care to people living with HIV/AIDS.”
There are some 5,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the Sacramento region, according to CARES—an estimated 1,000 of whom are unaware they are infected. Minority ethnic communities are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS with higher infection rates and lower long-term survival rates. One-fourth of U.S. residents living with HIV are women, and Black women are more than 19 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white women.
The mission of NorCal AIDS Cycle is to support organizations throughout Northern California working to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to care for those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in the region through fundraising;
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