Sep. 12, 2012 - Issue #882: Down On The Farm
In its 21st year, Edmonton's AIDS walk is as important as ever
Edmonton's 21st annual Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life is taking place on Sunday, September 23rd. HIV Edmonton is working in partnership with several organizations in the city—including the Pride Centre of Edmonton, Living Positive, Street Works, Kairos House, SIHA and the James Tolin Memorial Fund West—to raise money, awareness and solidarity for those who live with or are affected by HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS walks will be taking place across North America this fall.
Edmonton's five kilometre walk starts at Churchill Square, winds through downtown's streets toward the Legislature and ends back at the square. All of the money that is raised in Edmonton stays in the city.
The first HIV/AIDS walk was organized by AIDS Project Los Angeles. On July 28, 1985, 4500 people took to the streets of LA and raised $673 000 for HIV/AIDS research, advocacy projects, health care and medications. Cities across North America soon began holding their own HIV/AIDS walks as both political actions and fundraising events. HIV/AIDS walks continue to be radical political actions as people occupy public space in order to challenge stigma and discrimination.
People living with HIV/AIDS have had to personally bear the financial, physical and emotional costs of health care, medication, job loss and palliative care. In the United States particularly, fundraising continues to be desperately needed because of a lack of nationalized health care in the country. The United States' lack of nationalized health care is still a major problem for those living with HIV/AIDS. Accordingly, health-care reform and the possibility of nationalized health care have been the focus of many American HIV/AIDS activists. Some activists argue that, in the face of a seemingly unchangeable health-care system, it may be more prudent to fight for same-sex marriage rights because private health care can be shared among spouses. Contrarily many HIV/AIDS activists argue that focusing (solely or primarily) on marriage as an avenue for health care is a dangerously misguided political strategy. Those who don't want to or can't get married are still denied health care. Instead of pursuing marriage as an avenue toward health care, HIV/AIDS activists have worked to build communities of care. Marriage tends to create small family units and its members are charged with caring only for and supporting the rest of their family. Communities of care, on the other hand, are based on strong and robust support systems that tend to the physical, financial and emotional needs of its most vulnerable members.
Canadians living with HIV/AIDS have had access to national health care and cheaper medication than their American counterparts. Still, for many Canadians living with HIV/AIDS, medication, treatment and care costs are still too expensive. Moreover, HIV/AIDS advocacy, research and care organizations, who largely depend on government funding, are continuously subject to the political priorities and agendas of ruling federal and provincial parties. In its last two budgets, Stephen Harper's government has cut funding and/or denied new money to several aboriginal HIV/AIDS organizations.
Faced with the realities of fluctuating government support, HIV Edmonton and its partners have worked to create a community of care for those living with HIV/AIDS in the city and province. According to their website, "HIV Edmonton has been providing support, community education, advocacy and prevention within a harm reduction philosophy to Edmonton and area for over 25 years. We are a community based, not-for-profit organization that works to eliminate HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination."
HIV/AIDS walks emerged to both raise desperately needed funds and to create awareness by claiming public space and demanding the public's attention. In its 20th year, Edmonton's AIDS Walk for Life continues to be an event to raise funds and awareness, and to foster solidarity, support and strength among our communities.
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