The Long Beach LGBTQ+ Center held the annual AIDS Walk event in person on Sunday, Nov. 14 at the Long Beach coastline and raised $18,416 out of $50,000 goal to support HIV and sexually transmitted infection services.
Since 1988, the Long Beach AIDS Walk has “raised millions of dollars to fund critical HIV prevention and support services” such as free condoms, HIV and STI testing, primary medical care and more, according to the Center’s website.
Ismael Salamanca, Long Beach LGBTQ+ Center’s director of health and wellness services, said he was happy with the fundraising money the Center raised at the in-person walk event.
“Thank you, everyone, for coming out to our annual event this year,” he said during the event, adding a personal appreciation to the Bickerstaff Family Center who was the largest donator at $6,090.
The route for AIDS Walk participants started at Junipero Beach, then headed east towards Belmont Shore. In the end, participants turned around at Granada Beach near Rosie’s Dog Beach.
More than a year ago, the AIDS Walk was held virtually where attendees participated from the comfort of their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arturo Guzman, the LGBTQ+ Center’s HIV and STI testing coordinator participated in the AIDS Walk from home last year but felt like it wasn’t a great turnout because of the coronavirus.
“Last year, I know people did the walk at home and so did I,” he said. “It wasn’t too good for us because we couldn’t be as effective in spreading our message about the cause.”
Carlos Torres, Executive Director of the LGBTQ+ Center, said there was a new requirement added in order to host the AIDS Walk in person.
The center was required to send detailed documents over to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department with an estimate of how many participants would be in attendance in order for the 5-kilometer event to be approved.
“It was a long process, but one that was necessary considering the times we’re in,” Torres said.
Even though Guzman would’ve liked to see more in-person participants at the event, it was understandable for a low turnout due to being cautious over the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a little smaller than I would’ve wanted,” he said, as he watched the participants begin their walk. “But, we are mindful of people’s safety and wellbeing.”
Regardless of the pandemic, Guzman said he was happy people came out to show their support for the AIDS Walk cause.
“It makes me happy to see that people came out to the event to spread awareness about this issue,” he said, as he followed the crowd of walkers on the walking path at Junipero Beach.