By Will Norton-Mosher
Heavy rain last Saturday made the 17th annual Santa Cruz AIDS Walk feel like a swim.
“We should have requested it come in bottles,” Rob Watson, vice president of the Santa Cruz Aids Project (SCAP), said from a stage on the Santa Cruz Wharf.
The turnout was large and multifarious. Many of the people present were college students, including the UCSC sorority Alpha Psi. Also in attendance was Santa Cruz City Mayor Emily Reilly and the Motion Pacific Dance team.
The walk was organized by SCAP in order to raise money for both SCAP and UC Santa Cruz’s Student Health Outreach Program (SHOP).
It was the first time that SCAP had held the aids walk by the sea instead of in San Lorenzo Park.
“This is just so fabulous,” Mayor Reilly said. “I have the wonderful job of thanking you for showing up.”
Reilly expressed her gratitude and proclaimed the day “Santa Cruz Aids Walk Day.” 	Afterward, Reilly said that she lost a friend to AIDS in 1983 and continued to lose friends every few months during the following decade. She said that it was crucial for young people to learn about AIDS prevention.
Many of the students that came to the walk were ex-pupils of Professor Mary Zavanelli, who taught Biology of AIDS last quarter.
The class taught students about the sociological and biological consequences of AIDS. In-class quizzes asked questions like, “What are the similarities between AIDS and the medieval black death?” and “How does AIDS evade the immune system?”
At the end of the class, students could pass by either completing a research paper on AIDS or doing volunteer work. The students that came to the walk were doing volunteer work and had raised over $13,000 for the event.
Arnav Agarwal, a teaching assistant for the Biology of AIDS class, was impressed by the quantity of funds raised and pointed out that the students’ participation wasn’t required.
Most students that came to walk asked their friends for money, but some students found nontraditional ways to pay.
Alexander Henriquez, a student who had been in the Biology of AIDS class, raised money by performing a 24-hour dance-a-thon with his friends.
“My friend, Carrie Sownie, had 24 hours worth of music,” he said, “so we played the music for 24 hours.”
Henriquez and friends started dancing in the Porter Quad, while collecting donations, and made their way to the lobby of the Porter Dining Hall, the side of the Porter Squiggle, and another dance party on campus. When they finished, they were where they had started – the Porter Quad, and they had raised about $100.
“It’s true that a lot of people are dying with AIDS,” James Gray said. “But it’s also true that a lot of people are living with AIDS.”
Gray, another student, came to the event because he was in the Biology of AIDS class. But because he has friends who utilize SCAP services, he would have come regardless of the requirement.
SCAP offers multi-lingual support groups for those infected with HIV and provides client services, such as financial and emotional counseling. It’s projects and fundraisers like the Santa Cruz AIDS Walk which enables SCAP to provide those services. In addition, the project also runs the Perlman House, a clean living residence for those infected with HIV. They provide emergency medical assistance, free and anonymous testing, and more. These services, according to everyone interviewed that day, helped increase the quality life of AIDS patients in Santa Cruz.
To date, over 46 million people are living with AIDS worldwide, and anywhere between 2.4 to 3.5 million have died from the disease. So far, many of those fatalities come from third-world countries, and half a million of those are children born with congenital AIDS.
Heather Ballestero, a UCSC student and volunteer, summed up the event as the rain came.
“I don’t mind the rain,” she said, sitting underneath a tent structure behind a table stacked with brochures. “We’re all here to fight for the same cause.”