Now is not the time to lose momentum.

This year marks the 31st anniversary for the Seattle AIDS Walk, and funds raised will continue to support HIV prevention and care services for people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.

Historically AIDS Walks were held to honor lives lost by the disease and walk in hope for a cure. Times have changed over the past 30 years. Medical advances have changed our fight against HIV and AIDS. Today we care for the health and well-being of individuals living with the disease and help them live the fullest life possible. We also know that increased testing and treatment can prevent new infections, which is why we provide education and outreach to communities at greatest risk of infection. Changing the name of our walk to the End AIDS Walk is about celebrating the ultimate finish line—knowing that a day without new infections is near.

The timing of the name change coincides with Governor Inslee’s World AIDS Day, December 1, 2014 announcement of the End AIDS Washington campaign. End AIDS Washington is a partnership among community stakeholders working together to reduce new HIV infections by 50% over the next five years. When the goal is reached in Washington, the HIV transmission rate will be one of the lowest in the United States. Reducing new infections by 50% is significant because below a certain threshold, a disease loses its grip on a population. This is the public health pathway to “end” absent a cure which may also be on the near (or nearer) horizon.

The notion of “ending AIDS” is not a false hope or a vague statement.

If we can treat it we can beat it, and science has proven that a person who is HIV positive with a suppressed viral load is highly unlikely to transmit the disease.

Walking to the finish line, together.

The Washington State Department of Health reports that the number of both new infections, as well as people living with HIV who progress to AIDS, has declined dramatically in recent years. The contours of the epidemic have changed significantly. Now, people living with HIV/AIDS who are receiving treatment can and do live healthy and relatively normal lives. That’s why early diagnosis and getting and keeping people in care is so important. There are thousands of HIV-positive individuals not only living, but who will live well into old age.

We hear all the time that “AIDS is no longer a death sentence.”

Although it is true that HIV and AIDS is a chronic, manageable disease for most, we still lose people from AIDS-related complications. Those who are living with the disease may encounter challenges accessing and adhering to treatment or struggle to be accepted by their community.  That’s where organizations like Lifelong come in, to provide resources and support for years to come.

So taking all of this into consideration, we feel confident in our belief that an end to AIDS is possible in Washington State. Our last walk is near.

Now is not the time to lose momentum.

Now is when we need to work harder than ever to prevent new infections from occurring, and to support those here with us.  Won’t you join us?