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April 11th, 2012

Hudson Valley AIDS Walk celebrates 20 years



Poughkeepsie - ARCS recently announced that registration for the twentieth annual Hudson Valley AIDS Walk is now open. The Walk is the only local walkathon that raises funds to help Hudson Valley residents living with HIV/AIDS. The first AIDS Walk was held in 1992 in White Plains but moved to Poughkeepsie in 2004.

This year’s AIDS Walk takes place on Saturday, May 5, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Walkway Over the Hudson. Walkers may turn in their collected donations at the Poughkeepsie approach or at the Hudson Valley Rail Trail area on the Highland entrance. Last year, over 500 walkers took part and raised more than $50,000 to bolster ARCS’ programs and services for local residents affected by HIV/AIDS.

Christine Wynkoop, a teacher in Rondout Valley, volunteered to help plan the AIDS Walk to encourage students to get more involved in their community. “As I learned more about ARCS, I was impressed. Since funding continues to be an issue, it has never been more important to support our community and our neighbors. I am happy to do my part for the AIDS Walk so that important support and programs can continue.”

Beacon resident Aretha Thompson joined ARCS as a volunteer this year. “I volunteered to be a part of the AIDS Walk committee because it is such an important cause. If I can serve as just one little component to assist in getting the word out, I’m honored.”

According to the latest figures available, more than 6,200 Hudson Valley residents are living with HIV/AIDS. African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the epidemic. They comprise a whopping 40% of all people living with HIV/AIDS even though they only make up 11.1% of the region’s overall population. Hispanics make up 25.3% of those living with the virus despite the fact that they make up just 15.6% of the Hudson Valley population.

There were 212 new HIV cases in the Hudson Valley in 2009. African-Americans counted for 41% of all new infections (87 cases), and Hispanics made up 31.1% (66 cases). “Obviously, the fight is not over,” said Jeff Kraus, ARCS’ Executive Director. “The AIDS Walk is also important as a reminder to the public that people are still getting infected, and that stigma against those with HIV remains a huge barrier to people getting help.”

Though the topic is serious, Walk organizers aim to make it an uplifting community event. This year’s Walk features DJ music by Superior Sounds, a zumba warm-up, free snacks and water from Stop & Shop, free Starbucks coffee, vendors and a community health fair. Poughkeepsie residents will walk towards Highland at 10:45 to join the group across the river. At 11:30 a.m., all walkers will cross the span to Poughkeepsie. All are invited to an after party at 1:00 p.m. at the Brown Derby at 96 Main Street in Poughkeepsie with free snacks and a live performance by Jason Gisser.

Funds raised at the Hudson Valley AIDS Walk are used to support under-funded ARCS programs such as their food pantries, client emergency fund and HIV prevention programs.

Walkers are encouraged to collect $20 donations from friends and family in honor of the twentieth anniversary. “Our goal is raise $100,000 at this very special AIDS Walk,” Kraus said. “This is a great way for people to tell their neighbors living with HIV, ‘We care about you, and we want you to keep on surviving.’”

Walkers and teams can sign up online at www.firstgiving.com/arcs or by calling (914) 785-8283.

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