About 400 vounteers supporting thousands of marchers turned out for the Scotiabank AIDS Walk For Life, a benefit for the AIDS Committee of Toronto, on Sept 25. Participants walked the five-kilometre route along Church, Carlton, Jarvis and Yonge streets to raise money for people living with HIV.
Jim Stone, Walk for Life chair, says that despite advances in treatment, AIDS remains a major issue. “In Toronto, one in three new HIV diagnoses are among youth under 30, one in five new HIV diagnoses are among women, and one in five gay men live with HIV,” he says. “There’s still more work to be done.”
Sheila Chevalier and her friends have been marching in the Walk for Life, holding stuffed animals that belonged to her beloved brother Patrick, since he died of AIDS. “We were very close,” she says. “It’s been a few years.” The challenge posed by HIV and AIDS has become “a bit more hidden than it used to be… because people die of complications,” she says. “It’s still a very prevalent issue, especially for long-term survivors.”
“Caretaking is tough,” says Chevalier. She wants those who have lost loved ones to HIV to remember that “what you did for the person who you’ve lost is a beautiful thing.”
“How many friends have I lost to AIDS over the years? A hell of a lot,” says Toronto drag icon Michelle DuBarry. “Most of my closest friends are gone.” DuBarry, who turns 80 in a few months, attended the street fair to show her support.
Josh Hass, the topless sparkling star of Team Gay Bachelor Blog, got the fundraising juices flowing in friends and peers with a unique promise: “I hate glitter,” he says. “So I told all my friends, if I raise $750 I’ll glitter myself.”
Hass raised $850 and so walked the route covered in golden sparkles. He says it’s worth it. “A lot of people in our community have AIDS, and they mean a lot to me.”
The event wrapped up with a free afterparty in the centre of the Village at Church and Wood streets, headlined by Jully Black. There were also performances by DJ Sumation, Diggy from Down with Webster and drag star Sofonda Cox.