This year’s event, which was held on Sunday morning, was still full of firsts. Due to the ongoing global health crisis called COVID-19, AIDS Walk New York and AIDS Walk San Francisco made the pioneering move to creatively combine resources into one bicoastal, star-studded virtual broadcast.
“AIDS Walk: Live at Home” kicked off with a performance by stars of “RuPual’s Drag Race,” and continued with appearances from prominent figures from politics to Broadway, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Fab Five of “Queer Eye,” Anne Hathaway, Patti Labelle, Bette Midler, Jordin Sparks, Vanessa Williams, Raul Esparza and Harvey Fierstein.
Sponsors for AIDS Walk New York included the Keith Haring Foundation, Barclays Center and Delta Airlines, which contributed $125,000 to the cause despite the financial impact suffered by the company as a result of the pandemic.
Throughout the program, hosted by television personality Ross Matthews, advocates and allies from both cities were united in raising money for GHMC and its West Coast counterpart PRC, as well as 45 other AIDS service organizations from Brooklyn to the Bay Area.
“We don’t need to gather in a park to show our dedication to people who need our help and support,” said Matthews. “Just you tuning into the webcast right now is proof enough that nothing, not even this crazy crisis, will stop you from supporting the vital work that both PRC and GMHC do.”
AIDS Walk was founded by Craig R. Miller, who began his career as a progressive legislative and congressional campaign manager before pivoting into fundraising for HIV/ AIDS.
In 1985, he began AIDS Walk Los Angeles, followed by sister events in New York and San Francisco.
Last year, more than 15,000 participants either walked a 10K route through the Upper West Side, which began and ended in Central Park, or ran five miles within the park.
To date, AIDS Walk New York has inspired nearly 890,000 people to walk and millions more to donate, raising nearly $155 million to combat HIV and AIDS.
As the world’s first organization of its kind, GMHC uses proceeds from the AIDS Walk to support its efforts to confront systemic inequalities in low-income and communities of color with high HIV infection rates.
This includes assistance in areas such as supportive housing and financial management.
With COVID-19 presenting unique challenges to those living with HIV, GMHC moved quickly to adapt its services to the pandemic environment.
The organization delivered more than 35,000 meals to New Yorkers sheltering in place, as well as ramped up its mental health services, substance abuse counseling, legal aid and HIV home testing.
"For those of us who were part of the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the plight of our country right now is at once unprecedented and strangely familiar," said Miller. "Over the past 34 years, we have always stood, walked and marched with all who oppose police brutality and the racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic disparities that persist in the healthcare and criminal justice systems of America.
“Protecting people who have been singled out, harassed, scapegoated and underserved is what we do,” he added. “It is our legacy and it remains our commitment."
By the end of the New York broadcast, “AIDS Walk: Live At Home” had raised more than $50,000 to supplement the nearly $1.7 million already raised for AIDS Walk New York prior the event.
Presented in partnership with iHeartMedia, “AIDS Walk: Live at Home” is available for viewing on the network’s YouTube channel. Donations can be made at ny.aidswalk.net.