Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stories From Aids Walk NY 2012

The AIDS Walk took place in New York on Sunday May 20, 2012. While every participant walked for a different reason, they all walked for the same cause, which was support the fight against AIDS and HIV.  Check out the video I shot during Aids Walk NY 2012 "Stories From The Walk". Hope to see you on the walk in 2013!

--Kyle Sweet
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Sunday, May 20th, approximately 45,000 people converged in the streets of Manhattan for the AIDS Walk NY, and I am honored to have been one of them.  Walkers and wheelers of all ages and all ethnicities trekked 10 kilometers through Central Park and around the West Side, each of us with our own stories in every step.

We passed volunteers who shouted at us from the opposite side of the caution tape to “keep walking” and blew encouraging whistles in our direction. There were also tourists and NYC residents who joined us for a bit, curious and overwhelmed by the number of people walking.  “What are you fighting for?” I remember one woman yelling at us from the sidewalk.  “It’s the AIDS walk,” a man next to me answered, “we’re walking for awareness and a cure.”

Photo by Kyle Sweet
Each person had a story to tell, and we heard a few of them as we stopped to take footage.  My fellow intern and walker Kyle, brought along his camera and stopped to ask questions of people we wanted to know more about.  Some participants were walking for the twelfth time.  There were families with names of loved ones on their T-shirts, and co-workers who walked for companies that supported AIDS research.  Many walkers with their children and dogs, walked hand-in-hand, and held up banners proclaiming where they came from, and who they were walking for.  Others, like me, joined the fight for AIDS awareness recently, and this was our first walk.

Photo by Kim J. Ford for Lionqueen192 Productions, Inc.

For me, being surrounded by so many veterans of previous AIDS walks was powerful and also intimidating.  Was my brief encounter with this passionate world substantial enough that I was qualified to walk next to people who had seen their lovers and loved ones die from AIDS?  I was not alive when many of the walkers watched half of their friends contract a mysterious and deadly virus.  I have no way of knowing the pain fellow walkers felt when they discovered, years later, that their son’s, boyfriend’s, or grandmother’s HIV had finally morphed into AIDS, which was, at that time, a death sentence. 

Photo by Kyle Sweet
As I counted the number of AIDS Walk NY pins on the back of one man’s vest, I was reminded again of how the fight has changed since the first walk, in 1986. Today, people diagnosed with HIV who receive treatment can expect to live almost as long as a person not diagnosed with the disease.  However, if a person doesn’t know she’s HIV positive, doesn’t get tested, or doesn’t tell her partners about the diagnosis, she could spread HIV by not protecting herself and others.  When I think about how little most people know about HIV/AIDS and the importance of protection, the fight remains the same.  Everyone needs to know what happens when you neglect your body and sexual health, and what fights still need our attention.  Today, there are 33 million people living with HIV, and only 3 million are getting treatment.  Even with these statistics, unfortunately, according to a 2009 National Aids Strategy Coordinating Committee Report shows that the American public has become increasingly less concerned with HIV/AIDS. 

Yesterday, there were many, many people who raised money and walked for the cause, but there were so many more people who were not there.  Few of my peers and friends at home and at school knew that I was walking, and none of them were at the walk with me.  In my health class in high school, HIV/AIDS was a 30-minute PowerPoint lecture, mostly about how deadly HIV/AIDS used to be.

Photo by Kim J. Ford for Lionqueen192 Productions, Inc.
HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness is not an issue that my friends and I discuss when we hang out.  To our generation, HIV/AIDS is archaic and a none-issue; most people are under the impression that AIDS now has a cure.  That needs to change.  If we are to live in a safer, healthier, more conscious world, our generation of YouTube-watching, Facebook-stalking teens needs to know that kids our age are still being diagnosed with HIV, and even more of those teens simply do not know how to prevent the disease or how to get tested.  And that is what I walked for Sunday: I walked as a promise to get the word out, to get my friends to be aware of the current fight, and to get more young people behind the AIDS fight.  Even though I’m not a long-time walker, and even though I don’t have as many stories to tell, I was as much a part of the AIDS Walk as anyone else because I’m determined to get the word out.

Remember: no matter how you get down, protect yourself. Get tested. 

Check out this HIV/AIDS photo retrospective: 

--Virginia Marshall
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

Meet Virginia Marshall, GET DOWN Youth Blogger

GET DOWN is excited that the Summer 2012 interns are here! Meet Virginia Marshall, a Harvard University student, and now GET DOWN Youth Blogger.  Virginia is got started right away and did the Aids Walk NY with us.  She's also going to Africa later this Summer.  Take photos for us!

Virginia Marshall
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

Photo Courtesy Virginia Marshall Facebook

Monday, May 7, 2012

GETTING DOWN With Aids Walk NY 2012!!

It's May! And for GET DOWN, that means it's time for Aids Walk NY, the largest single-day AIDS fundraising event in the world.  Founded by GMHC, the world's first AIDS service organization, the 10-kilometer walkathon was designed to raise urgently needed funds for GMHC, and to battle the stigma so many associated with HIV/AIDS. The event took place on May 18, 1986 at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, Fordham University's Robert Moses Plaza, and the streets of the Upper West Side. Today, the AIDS Walk begins and ends in Central Park.  In its 27 years, AIDS Walk New York has inspired nearly 845,000 people to walk, and millions more to donate, raising more than $122 million to combat HIV and AIDS. The funds raised at the event remain a vital lifeline that sustains GMHC's prevention, care, and advocacy programs for the thousands of men, women, and families affected by the disease in the tri-state area.

WHY DO WE WALK? Because Half of all new HIV infections
 in the U.S. occur in people 25 years of age or younger.

GET DOWN is just beginning. We are grassroots. You can read all about us here, friend us at and follow us on The GET DOWN PSAs are on You Tube and on our sites as well. 

We are walking with TEAM FACES NY (#0638) and are proud to have met so many young people at the Brooklyn Youth Conference that want to walk with us!

Please go here to donate to GET DOWN creator and executive producer Kim J. Ford's page:

The GET DOWN team is thanking you in advance for standing with us in the fight against HIV/AIDS and helping spread awareness among youth and young adults.

--The GET DOWN Team