AIDS Awareness Walk in Aiken

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

December 10, 2005
Cool temperatures didn’t stop walkers in Aiken County from lacing up their tennis shoes for a good cause. More than 80 people showed up Saturday for the AIDS Awareness Walk. It’s the first of its kind for the city of Aiken. Mayor Fred Cavanaugh also marking today as the official AIDS Day for the City.

People all over Aiken County put their best foot forward on this mile-long track to support an epidemic killing nearly 16,000 people in 2004, according to the CDC.

“We want to bring awareness to the community and the impact it’s having on the community as a whole,” said Patricia Yates.

That’s the message these leaders wanted to get across at the First Annual AIDS Day Walk in Aiken.

“Doesn’t matter what your race, religion or sexual orientation,” said Rev. Estella Green, Keynote speaker.

Patricia Yates, the walk chairperson, says South Carolina ranks ninth in the country, holding one of the highest numbers of AIDS diagnosis a year, with more than 500 cases in Aiken County alone.

“It’s leading cause of death for African Americans ages 20-24,” Green said.

Information that came as a bit of a shock to Sonny Walters.

“I didn’t know the number was this high,” Walters said.

It’s why Yolanda Simmons brought her 9-year-old twins to the awareness walk.

“Let them know to be careful as they get older,” Simmons said.

But for others like Eugene Smith, educating others on the dangers of AIDS has a more personal meaning.

“My father passed away six years ago, he was a drug user and he got AIDS from using drugs,” Smith said.

And now he’s using his voice to spread the word on this silent killer.

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