Lowcountry AIDS Services (LAS) and the Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center (RWWC) are inviting the community to run, walk and jog for HIV and AIDS awareness. Again for 2017, the two organizations have partnered to host the ninth Red Ribbon 5K & AIDS Walk on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston.
Registration is now open for this year’s event, featuring a timed 5K race on a certified course along the trails of the county park as well as a free AIDS Walk. The race begins at 10 a.m. followed by a family friendly health and wellness fair, games and music by DJ Trevor D and acoustic duo Oh Valentino.
Both organizations will split the event proceeds, which will be used to help the more than 2,500 people living with HIV and AIDS here in the tri-county area gain access to medical care and live healthier, more sustainable lives.
The Deep South, including the state of South Carolina, continues to be an area of concern as it leads the country in the number of new HIV infections each year. In 2014, the Deep South region continued to have the highest HIV diagnosis rate and numbers and the highest HIV-related death rate of any U.S. region, according to the latest report from the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative. African Americans represent a majority of new HIV diagnoses as well as a majority of people living with HIV in the Deep South. New diagnoses among African-American gay and bisexual men who have sex with men continue to increase.
South Carolina ranks 13th in the nation for its high prevalence of AIDS cases, and Charleston/North Charleston ranks 19th among national metropolitan areas. LAS conducted 1,551 HIV tests in 2016 with 19 reported positive cases. The RWWC conducted 233 HIV tests with two positive cases. The majority of new HIV positive cases continued to be young, African-American men. Since the launch of its PrEP program, the RWWC has reported 65 prevented cases of HIV. PrEP is a daily pill that can reduce the risk of getting HIV particularly among high-risk individuals.
“We want to remind our community that HIV remains a problem for Charleston. We need to bring attention to this epidemic while also educating people regular HIV testing and prevention,” said Bradley Childs, executive director of Lowcountry AIDS Services.
Ryan White’s Director Kimberly Butler Willis added, “Ending HIV in the Lowcountry is a common goal between our organizations. By partnering together, we increase the volume of our outreach in raising awareness. The Red Ribbon 5K & AIDS Walk is a great start for a community awareness, engagement and action that even whole families can get behind.”
The 5K course winds through Wannamaker Park on both paved trails and through a scenic forested, unpaved path. Registration is $30 per person and includes a race T-shirt; $35 if you register the morning of the event. Team discounts and team fundraising opportunities are available. Register for the 1-mile AIDS Walk for free; fundraise $30 or more to receive an event T-shirt. Top finishers and winners in designated age groups will receive a medal.
For information and to register, visit www.redribbonlowcountry.org.