Families, couples and students gathered in downtown Bloomington Friday for entertainment and family fun. At the same time they were collecting donations and raising awareness for HIV and AIDS during the annual South Central Indiana AIDS walk.
The walk is put on annually by IU Health Positive Link and Community AIDS Action Group of South Central Indiana to reduce the stigma around AIDS and HIV. This year it was at the Waldron Hill Buskirk Park.
“There’s a lot of discrimination against people with AIDS when there shouldn’t be,” said Tiffany Kirk, a client of Positive Link. “AIDS is not a deadly disease anymore.”
The festival featured inflatables, music, face painting and drag performances followed by the walk.
The registered walkers raised donations prior to the walk and all donations collected at the event went to Positive Link, the region’s HIV Prevention and Client Services organization serving South Central Indiana.
This year, Positive Link expanded their services in the region, most notably with the opening of a medical clinic in Bloomington that offers education on HIV/AIDS testing as well as services for those living with the disease.
Kirk said Positive Link offers disease testing, resources to find housing, a food bank and counseling to all of its clients.
Multiple AIDS awareness organizations gathered at the walk, including the HIV Modernization Movement, which is working to change Indiana's HIV laws that prohibit the exposure of bodily fluids from an HIV positive person to another person. HIV positive people are also forced to disclose their status under Indiana law.
The Indiana Recovery Alliance was also present. The organization's goal is to reduce HIV infections by providing testing and syringe access. Bloomington PRIDE also came to support LGBT members living with HIV and AIDS.
Bloomington residents Eric Metzler and Joe Johnson have been on a fundraising team for the AIDS walk for the last four years. The two said the walk is an important event raise awareness about AIDS in the public eye and help people become informed about the disease.
“This community event brings gay and transgender people together,” Metzler said. “This event also invites people from rural areas of Indiana to come and learn about a disease that’s been hidden from the public.”
Donations to the Community AIDS Action Group and Positive Link can be made through http://www.btownaidswalk.org