Participants in 545-mile trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles Raise $10.5 million
LOS ANGELES, June 6, 2009 ??? Cheered by fans, friends, family and local residents, about 2,150 bicyclists streamed into Los Angeles today for the conclusion of the eighth annual AIDS/LifeCycle, a seven-day, 545-mile journey from San Francisco that raised $10.5 million for the HIV/AIDS-related services of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
At the closing ceremony at the Veteran's Administration Center in West Los Angeles, the riders and 500 volunteer roadies from 41 states and 14 nations celebrated their heroic accomplishment. Led by San Francisco AIDS Foundation Chief Executive Officer Mark Cloutier and L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean, the participants decried the massive cuts in HIV/AIDS-related services in the governor's proposed budget and agreed to carry their message to communities across California.
"Elected leaders in our state government are poised to make massive cuts in essential health and human services, including $80 million for vitally needed HIV/AIDS services," said Jean. "We cannot allow them to balance the state budget at the expense of so many lives! We call on the elected leaders of our state to exhibit the same amazing compassion and courage that you all have shown over the past week, to appreciate the dire consequences of their proposals, and to fund the HIV/AIDS services that literally save lives."
Holding their helmets or hands over their faces during the ceremony, the cyclists and roadies represented the scores of lives that will be lost if legislators approve the proposed $80 million reduction in HIV/AIDS-related services???a roster of cuts which would deny life-saving drugs to low-income Californians, eliminate HIV testing, counseling and education programs, and turn the clock back on years of progress in fighting the AIDS epidemic.
"The proposed budget will put the most vulnerable Californians at risk and jeopardize the health and safety of communities we've long rallied to protect," said Cloutier. "The heroes of AIDS/LifeCycle 8 stand in unanimous opposition to potentially disastrous elimination of vital HIV/AIDS services."
The AIDS/LifeCycle participants ranged in age from 18 to 78 and included novice cyclists as well as event veterans, all of whom raised at least $3,000. They traveled through eight California counties, occasionally outnumbering the populations of the communities through which they rode. In many towns along the route, local residents applauded and displayed signs welcoming and encouraging the riders.
At the closing ceremony, actor Leslie Jordan, best known for his role as Beverly Leslie on the hit series Will & Grace, led a Riderless Cycle procession to commemorate all those lost to AIDS.
AIDS/LifeCycle's presenting sponsors were Shopoff Properties Trust, FedEx Corporation and Gilead Sciences.
Photographs from the AIDS/LifeCycle Closing Ceremony will be available for downloading at 8 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, June 6 at www.aidslifecycle.org/press/.
Event photos and cyclists' journals can be viewed at http://experience.aidslifecycle.org. Additional information can be found on the AIDS/LifeCycle website at www.aidslifecycle.org/press-room/.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation provides leadership to prevent new HIV infections. Linking community experience with science, the Foundation develops ground-breaking prevention programs and bold policy initiatives to promote health and create sustainable progress against HIV. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.
The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. A simple test can determine if you are infected with the virus.
Our diverse programs help thousands of people every year. From testing to prevention to care, our services assist communities where need is greatest.