Editor’s note: This is the first installment of the Lone Star Ride Journal, an 18-week series featuring columns written by people participating in some way in the 2010 Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.
For 10 years we’ve been riding. For 10 years we’ve been raising money for three AIDS service organizations in North Texas and asking you to "saddle up" and join us to ride or crew or donate.
Why is it that we continue riding or crewing, even if we’re not avid cyclists or athletes? Why do we keep asking you to sponsor us and help us raise a minimum of $500 each as we ride our bicycles some crazy number of miles in the (hopefully cool but likely hot) final days of September?
It used to be said that we ride to raise money to help find a cure. Many have said we have to ride because it’s our community being impacted the most and the support has to come from somewhere. It usually isn’t until it happens to someone you love that you take on a cause like ours and discover why — your own "why."
Can you remember hearing about HIV/AIDS in the 1980s? How about in the ’90s?
Think back and it’s likely that you can recall a moment since 2001 when you went to test yourself for something. Or perhaps you can recall a moment when, in your primary care physician’s office, you had to blush when asking for an HIV test. Of course, there are too many of us who can — vividly — remember the time in the last 10 years when we didn’t experience that sigh of relief when results came back.
Worst of all, many of us can remember a time in the last 10 years when we lost someone we loved.
And my goodness, how messages have changed in the last 10 years!
HIV/AIDS is no longer infecting people only because of drug use or careless sexual conduct or an isolated medical mishap. And HIV/AIDS is, in most, cases no longer a death sentence. Modern medicine (if you can afford it) will allow you to live a healthy and "normal" life.
But HIV/AIDS isn’t just a stealthy virus that attacks a person’s immune system. It has a caustic and viral stigma that breeds in our homes and upbringing. It thrives with our ignorance and lack of personal responsibility and self-worth. It is a cultural and societal menace that plagues minority and female communities worse now than ever before.
HIV/AIDS will always find itself protected in a host who feels ashamed. And if left unchecked, it shows no compassion and infects our youngest generation (regardless of your ethnicity) because too many believe HIV/AIDS doesn’t matter anymore because "it doesn’t kill you anymore."
We want to impress on you that maybe it doesn’t matter which memory since 2001 stands out the most to you. Maybe it doesn’t matter why we have been riding and asking for money since 2001. And it certainly doesn’t matter how you were raised or which nationality or ethnicity you call yourself. It doesn’t matter with whom you have sex.
What does matter is the stark reality before each and every one of us.
One of us is HIV-positive and is calling for others who are HIV-positive to join his fight against the stigma of HIV/AIDS in our community (and not just the LGBT community) and to lead a positive public example.
One of us is here to show that you don’t have to be HIV-positive to care about this disease that still debilitates so many around the world and right here in our own backyard.
You might call us the positive and negative of the fight — opposite ends of the same fight, together as activists. But we can’t do it without you.
We are part of the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. We need you to raise money for the beneficiaries who provide critical services to North Texans who are impacted in some way by HIV/AIDS. We need you to learn and pass on what you learn about HIV/AIDS so that we do not continue to perpetuate this disease and stigma.
But more than anything else, we need you. We are part of the solution for members of our community, of our families, for ourselves. And we need you to come be part of the solution, too.
Come join us in our 10th anniversary Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.
The 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26, beginning and ending each day at the American Airlines Conference Center in Arlington. To register as a rider or crew member, to donate, or just for more information, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 28, 2010.