AIDS/LifeCycle Raises AIDS Awareness

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More than 2,300 riders and nearly 500 volunteer participants in AIDS/LifeCycle rolled into West Los Angeles Saturday.

Participants having raised more than $11 million for HIV services and prevention on their 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The cyclists rode through eight counties, talking with local residents and media along the way to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and promote HIV prevention.

Money raised from the event will support HIV/AIDS-related services provided by the event's co-producers, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

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AIDS/LifeCycle set a new record for participation and money raised, attracting cyclists from 10 countries and 43 states -- including a contingent of people living with HIV known as the Positive Pedalers -- and raising $3 million more than last year. The ride is the most successful event of its kind, raising more money for HIV/AIDS services than any other single fundraiser.

The leaders of both the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center rode the route again this year, making a personal commitment to the vital health services and educational programs their organizations provide to thousands of people.

"This is an awe-inspiring group of people," said the Center's CEO, Lorri L. Jean. "Every single person is an athlete, an activist and a philanthropist. And as we traversed the back roads and city streets of California, we proved our commitment to improving the lives of people with HIV and AIDS and preventing new infections. I am so proud to call myself a member of this most talented, committed and beautiful band of traveling visionaries."

"In the seven days since we took to the road, I've seen a community of deep compassion and joy develop," said Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Together we overcame physical challenges, exhaustion and the stigma some still attach to AIDS, and together we'll share that accomplishment with others back home."

Over the course of the week-long event, the cyclists -- sometimes outnumbering the populations of the communities they rode through -- were greeted by local residents and by staff and volunteers of AIDS service organizations along the route. Outreach to local communities was supported by the California Office of AIDS.

It is estimated that 151,000 Californians are living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom are unaware of their infection. In California, HIV/AIDS has had a particularly severe effect on the gay community, with more than 74 percent of all cases occurring among gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities, compared with 58 percent of AIDS cases nationally. Communities of color, including gay and bisexual men, have been disproportionately affected as well. In 2005, for example, African Americans represented 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for half of the AIDS diagnoses; Latinos represented 14 percent of the U.S. population while accounting for nearly 20 percent of AIDS diagnoses.

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