Greater Than AIDS Joins
Greater Than AIDS is proud to join AIDS/LifeCycle 2011, and the over 3,000 cyclists and volunteers traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. The seven-day bike ride, starting June 5th and ending June 11th, is co-produced by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Greater Than AIDS is excited to be along for the ride. Check out daily updates from the journey below, featuring Deciding Moments of the Riders and Roadies and what inspired them to get involved.
DAY #7: ALLIES>AIDS
Because HIV/AIDS in America has a disproportionate impact on gay men and people of color, it can be easy for many to look at the epidemic as someone else’s problem. Not so for fitness expert and reality TV star Scott Herman. Though heterosexual himself, Herman has been standing up for the gay community for years. And even though he thought himself only indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS, he’s proud to stand up, speak out, and fight back against the disease. His brave and proactive position inspired a close friend to disclose his HIV positive status to Scott, allowing them to form a stronger bond and giving Herman the chance to understand more clearly that the affect of HIV/AIDS often hits closer to home than we realize. Scott’s story reminds us of the many friends and family of those more directly affected by HIV/AIDS who are riders and roadies all the same. We salute all these allies, and thank them for their role in being Greater Than AIDS!
Video courtesy of Scott Herman Fitness
DAY #6: DIGNITY>STIGMA
One of the most anticipated stops on the 545 mile AIDS/Lifecycle route is Santa Barbara’s “Paradise Pit” where the local community comes out in force to show the riders some love. Most notably, that love comes in the form of free ice cream, and a variety of other treats and amusements. Among all the cyclists enjoying these earthly delights, we met Solomon and his pink-wigged pal Amanda. Turns out that Solomon is a local of Santa Barbara, where he works as a psychotherapist, and is chummy with Mayor Helene Schneider, who took time to greet us and pose for a quick photo-op. One of the common threads that binds these three, says Solomon, is their concern for the condition of others without judgment.
That sentiment is also central to Solomon’s Deciding Moment in response to AIDS, which he describes as “a long time coming.” Growing up in the 1980′s, Solomon witnessed first hand a member of his community struggling with the stigma then so prevalent for people living with AIDS. “This was an injustice I knew was happening way before I could even spell injustice,” Solomon recalls. It was years later when Solomon saw the musical “RENT” when he fully realized this importance of being “able to live our lives with dignity and when we are dying to die with dignity.” Today Solomon encourages all his clients to live with dignity in the face of any challenge, including his clients who are affected by HIV/AIDS.
Day #5: FIERCENESS>AIDS
Make no mistake: Stepping out in front of a crowd of THOUSANDS in a sky-high wig and stiletto heels is a tremendous triumph over fear. But our friend Mark knows something of overcoming a much more serious fear. In the mid 80′s, ten years before coming out himself, Mark was deeply afraid that his older brother, who is also gay, might contract HIV. In response, Mark set out to become as knowledgeable as possible about HIV/AIDS. Eventually he developed a career in HIV pharmaceutical sales. He leveraged this role into a platform for educating the community about HIV and it’s treatment.
Today we found Mark on a very different kind of platform. Each day this week, Mark and his fellow crew members at Rest Stop 4 have ensured the health and safety of each rider. And as you can see they look fierce doing it. Welcome to “Red Dress Day,” when all riders wear red and many dress in red-hot drag! So of course the “ladies” of Rest Stop 4 laid it all on the line with an amazing show. But as Mark himself will tell you, it’s not all about wigs and working it. They are there to recharge riders who may be at the end of their rope. They are there to beak down barriers and make personal connections. And they are there to prove that FIERCENESS can be Greater Than AIDS!
Day #4: PRIDE>SILENCE
When Kaya popped in to the Deciding Moments booth with her bright smile, optimistic energy, and a powerfully simple message about breaking the silence, we somehow knew we’d be seeing more of her along the ride. The next day, at opening ceremonies, Kaya walked into the arena amid an air of somber silence. Her left hand guided the “Riderless Cycle” — which symbolizes those who we’ve lost and who cannot ride. We had heard from Kaya at Saturday’s photo shoot that she signed up for her first AIDS/Lifecycle ride in 2010 to honor her brother who she lost to AIDS in 2003. Not only did that AIDS/Lifecycle allow Kaya to say goodbye to him, but led her to break the silence around being HIV positive herself. Before coming on the ride she had disclosed her status only to a very select few, and spent years with what she described as a “scream” in her mind. For Kaya, AIDS/Lifecycle was “a safe place to scream.” And now Kaya tells her truth with pride to encourage others, especially other HIV positive women, to overcome stigma and find their voice.
Day #3: FAMILY>AIDS
Meet Sarah and her niece Adrienne. Together they have raised $9000 to fight HIV and as you can see, they are having a fun time doing it! Originally inspired to ride as a celebration of her birthday, Adrienne and her aunt Sarah hit the road with AIDS/LifeCycle last year for the first time. Sarah also dedicated that ride to a friend she lost to AIDS years ago. This year they are back because of the incredibly inspiring experience last year, and because they are both so moved and motivated by the mission of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Whether they are sporting marker moustaches or throwing the “Greater Than” hand sign, these ladies are clearly young at heart, generous in spirit, and undoubtedly Greater Than AIDS.
Day #2: Neil’s Deciding Moment
Neil Giuliano, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation and AIDS/LifeCycle cyclist, has a memorable Deciding Moment. It was prompted by another landmark event in the response to HIV and AIDS in America. It was October 1996 and Neil was in Washington D.C. It was the last time the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt was on display in one place at one time—and it covered the entire National Mall, a tragically breathtaking representation of the lives we had already lost. Neil’s Deciding Moment reminds us of the inspirational power that can come of such grand gestures. Whether sewing a stitch or riding on the road, the collective energy behind and because of such events helps all of us realize that we can end this epidemic.
On the eve of the AIDS/LifeCylce, over 3,000 riders and volunteers convened at Cow Palace in San Francisco for orientation, before setting out at dawn the next day. Greater Than AIDS was there with a Deciding Moments photo booth and riders got a chance to snap their Deciding Moment photo before heading out for the week. Take a look at the incredible images that were captured.
Check out the Full album of Deciding Moments!
And check out this inspirational video created by AIDS/LifeCycle. It tells the story of this extraordinary experience and its powerful purpose—a true shining example of the everyday heroes who are Greater Than AIDS.