A community of organizations gathered inside a tent in Dunn Meadow on Saturday to sell T-shirts, give out informative leaflets and distribute condoms. Lots and lots of condoms.
People gathered there at noon to walk around downtown and raise awareness for AIDS. Organizers say it still carries an unfair stigma.
Community groups — including Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls and representatives from the state government — came together for the sixth annual AIDS Walk to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
It was organized by Student Global AIDS Campaign at IU. T-shirt sales and any donations to the group went to Bloomington Hospital’s Positive Link, which coordinates support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Organizers estimated that 75 people showed up, but there were probably more. They walked down Indiana Avenue, Kirkwood Avenue, around the courthouse, up College Avenue, then down Seventh Street back to Dunn Meadow.
During the 45-minute walk, the group passed the Monroe County Health Department, One City Centre, the Indiana Memorial Union and Showalter Fountain.
Some bystanders stared. Some eating on Kirkwood Avenue stopped eating. Police escorts on bicycles stopped traffic at intersections. A group of young women lounging outside on the sidewalk had to get up off their lawn chairs so the group could pass.
At one point, the group passed a tattooed guitarist, a guitar case open at his feet.
“Why don’t any of you guys give me a dollar?” he asked the crowd.
“This is already for a good cause,” someone shouted back. “It’s for AIDS awareness.”
One of the people to yell back, “No,” was Chase Potter, who is HIV positive. Programs through Positive Link helped pay for his housing and medication. One medication he’s on, Atripla, costs $1,800 a month, he said.
“The message isn’t out there,” he said in an interview after the walk.
There’s medicine to treat AIDS, but it won’t save your life, Potter said.
At last count, 187 Monroe County residents live with HIV, according to the Indiana State Department of Health’s Web site.
Junior Katherine Shortt, an organizer and member of Student Global AIDS Campaign, said because it was a sunny day, unlike years past, a lot of people showed up. It was a chance for the community to come together, she said.
“It involves the community,” Shortt said. “And it’s a good way to get students involved.”
There were several students walking.
Sophomore Hasan Mukhtar said he’s involved with the Student Global AIDS Campaign because so many people in developing countries have the disease. He’s also a member of groups such as the Timmy Foundation, which helps children in third-world countries.
He said that while there’s a lot of medical research being done, there’s still a big social stigma with the disease.
Unprotected sex is dangerous, Potter said, and there’s no cure for AIDS.
“You will die by AIDS,” Potter said. “Unless you get hit by a truck first.”