Five Thousand Walk For People With AIDS
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Gary Bailey likes to think he is living with AIDS, rather than dying from the disease.
″If I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from homophobia. ... I’m dying from indifference, ineptitude and red tape,″ Bailey, 39, said before the start of an eight-mile walk to benefit people with AIDS.
An estimated 5,000 people walked along the Schuylkill River in the fifth annual AIDS Walk Sunday, raising more than $200,000, according to Terese Vekteris of From All Walks of Life, which organized the event.
The money pledged to participants will be distributed among 20 groups that provide AIDS care and education in the Philadelphia area.
Cast members of Les Miserables sang ″Empty Chairs, Empty Tables,″ a song from the musical that had an added poignancy to people whose friends have died of AIDS.
Many of the walkers made their statements with buttons and T-shirts. The overall message was the same: more needs to be done to help people with AIDS and to educate people about the disease.
Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, who joined the walkers, said government has been slow to respond to the AIDS epidemic.
″It’s time for politicians to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you, to lock arms with you and address the cause as well,″ he said.
Singel reiterated recommendations he made last month in a published AIDS plan. He spoke of a need to improve AIDS education and to expand a state benefits program to make life-prolonging drugs more available for low- and moderate-income people with AIDS.
Bailey said the crowds gathered at the Philadelphia Art Museum before the start of the walk was a sign more people are understanding the seriousness of AIDS.
″When I look out at the sea of people, I am filled with hope,″ he said.