AIDS Walk Block Party goes today

Positive Living North makes it a positive living block on Third Avenue this weekend.

The city's HIV-AIDS support agency is celebrating their support network and a year of promoting community wellness with the annual AIDS Walk Block Party today in front of their headquarters at the Fire Pit (1120 3rd Ave).

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"As a community, we are all tied together," said AIDS Walk coordinator Judy Mitchell who feels that the AIDS Walk is more than just a fundraiser.

"The AIDS Walk is an opportunity to learn and raise awareness about HIV," she said.

"The AIDS Walk celebrates the resiliency of people who are living with this chronic disease. The Tied Together theme is how we are all connected and how by coming together we support each other in support and understanding for those who are affected by HIV."

The connections can all shake hands, hug and introduce each other at the block party.

It runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One of the biggest obstacles for HIV-AIDS advocates to overcome is an old social stigma that still persist after all these years of fighting the disease. Stigmas melt when communities come together in support of advocates, helpers, and especially the people who live every day with these conditions.

"We stigmatize, avoid and ostracize because of fear but you can't get HIV from a hug," Mitchell said.

"You cannot get HIV from listening to a person's story. You cannot get HIV from shaking a hand. However, you are at risk for intense feelings of caring."

According to data from the network of HIV-AIDS agencies across the country, of which Positive Living North is one, more than 65,000 people in Canada are living with HIV.

"This is more than ever before. In fact, one in five of those people don't even know they have the disease," said Mitchell.

"When you have HIV, life gets a lot harder. You may face stigma and discrimination, and the subsequent loss of relationships with friends or family when they learn of your HIV status.

"Despite advances in treatment, there is still no cure or vaccines to prevent new infections.

"The AIDS Walk reminds us that HIV-AIDS still poses major obstacles for people living with the virus.

"The need for providing support and creating awareness is as urgent as ever."

The AIDS Walk hosted by Positive Living North in Prince George is being held in conjunction with AIDS Walks that will be taking place in over 27 communities across Canada during September.

This year marks the 22nd year of the national initiative. Since its inception in 1996, the national AIDS Walk campaign has raised more than $42 million.

Adding to the Saturday festivities is the open partnership this year between the Positive Living North block party in the 1100 block and the coincidental Farm Fest Prince George street event only one block west.

The two are combining crowds to mutually improve the atmosphere.

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