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AIDS Walk 32 Set for May 21

Last year’s AIDS Walk underscored the goal of ending the epidemic in New York State by 2020. | DONNA ACETO

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | On Sunday, May 21, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are expected to pour into Central Park for Gay Men’s Health Crisis’ 32nd annual AIDS Walk, which over the life of the event has raised more than $150 million to support GMHC, the world’s first HIV services organization, and more than 40 other groups in the metropolitan area working to end the epidemic.

Over the past three decades nearly 900,000 people have joined the Walk, and last year, the group raised over $4.5 million with more than 30,000 people taking part in the 10-kilometer hike.

This year for the first time, participants have the option of running — five miles, that is, though through Central Park — rather than doing a 10-k walk.

Rain or shine, tens of thousands will hike, or run, to end the epidemic

GMHC provides prevention outreach, services, care, and advocacy for more than 9,000 clients annually, and a current focus of its efforts is encouraging HIV-negative people who believe they may be at risk for transmission to consider PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, which when taken as prescribed is highly effective at preventing infection.

This year’s AIDS Walk comes at a perilous moment for people living with HIV or at risk for getting the virus, especially those with low incomes. With an Obamacare repeal having passed the House, its replacement, known officially as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), but already dubbed Trumpcare, could throw at least 14 million people off the insurance rolls by next year — according to a scoring by the Congressional Budget Office, which completed its analysis before the bill was larded with even more hurdles for individuals seeking coverage. By 2026, 24 million Americans could lose coverage.

GMHC’s CEO Kelsy Louie, responding to the House action in a written statement, said, “The US House of Representatives has made a terrible mistake in passing the American Health Care Act, a disastrous bill that puts millions of lives at risk. This empty legislation is no replacement for the Affordable Care Act, a true lifeline that increased access to quality, affordable health care, guaranteed coverage for people with preexisting conditions, such as HIV, and covered recommended preventative services, including HIV testing. We see this vote as a direct attack on our clients, many of whom may lose their health insurance and their ability to access PrEP. The potential outcomes are devastating, not just for the LGBT community, but for all Americans… We call on leaders in the US Senate to stop this dangerous bill from moving forward.”

The May 21 event commences with an opening ceremony at 9:15 a.m. in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, featuring Javier Muñoz (the title character in “Hamilton”), Zachary Quinto (FX’s “American Horror Story”), Denis O’Hare (Tony-winner for “Take Me Out,” Drama Desk-winner for “Take Me Out” and “Sweet Charity,” and seen on TV in HBO’s “True Blood”), Raúl Esparza (Drama Desk-winner for “Taboo,” “Company,” and “The Homecoming,” and seen on TV on NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”), and Carson Kressley (Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”)

At the conclusion of the Walk, the hilarious, unpredictable queen of sass, Kathy Griffin, will host a new feature of the event, a Post-Walk Show. Griffin will be joined by Kressley, Bob the Drag Queen, Estelle, Jinkx Monsoon, Latrice Royale, Milk, and Trinity K. Bonet. Those raising $200 or more for the Walk get admission for one; those raising $300 or more win admission for two. Thankfully, food trucks will also be on hand at the finish line.

One participant last year envisioned an AIDS-free future. | DONNA ACETO

To register for this year’s AIDS Walk, visit https://ny.aidswalk.net. Those up for running, visit https://ny.aidswalk.net/runners.

At the end of the 2016 AIDS Walk, participants held aloft signs showing more than $4.5 million raised. | DONNA ACETO

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