Around 275 Yalies and New Haven residents walked five kilometers around the city for AIDS Walk New Haven, a Yale-organized event designed to raise money and awareness for the epidemic.
Highlighted by speeches from Senators Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Sheldon Whitehouse ’78 of Connecticut and Rhode Island, respectively, the event was met with much public support, though some New Haven residents interviewed said more ought to be done to combat the Elm City’s AIDS problem.
Organizers Sheila Enamandram ’13, Hilary Rogers ’13 and Matthew Shipsey ’11 said the event raised around $20,000 for the nine member agencies of the New Haven Mayor’s Task Force.
“People had fun and we were able to educate them at the same time,” Enamandram said. “We were able to involve so many people who aren’t traditionally involved in the fight against AIDS.”
Connecticut has the eighth-highest per capita incidence rate of HIV/AIDS of any state in the United States, and over 3,000 people in the New Haven community are currently living with AIDS, Enamandram said.
Approximately 20,000 people live with HIV in Connecticut, according to organizers, she added.
Both senators recognized the magnitude of the AIDS problem — but also recognized the magnitude of the participants’ efforts.
Blumenthal said those who turned out made a “very powerful statement” about the importance of addressing the AIDS problem, a sentiment echoed by Whitehouse. “It’s all about awareness, and it’s all about finding backing for the treatment and prevention of this illness,” Whitehouse said. “It’s important to get out, get on your feet, and make people aware of this dreaded disease.”
Still, New Haven residents, who Enamandram said made up the majority of the walkers, voiced their discontent at how AIDS has been handled in New Haven and around the country.
Pedro Ortiz, 41, said politicians like New Haven mayor John DeStefano Jr. need to “act — not talk,” stressing that the city’s AIDS activism needed to be taken out to the “projects,” citing Edgewood Park as one place where the incidence of AIDS is high despite a lack of testing and awareness in the area.
A lack of resources and outreach is the major reason for AIDS being so prevalent in the area, said Juan Diaz, 54, whose younger brother died from AIDS.
“We need more help. We need more money,” he said.
Both Whitehouse and Blumenthal were accompanied by their children, Molly Whitehouse ’11 and David Blumenthal ’14.