AIDS Walk's Top 25

Whitman-Walker honors individuals for efforts against HIV/AIDS

Whitman-Walker Health, organizer of AIDS Walk Washington, on Tuesday announced not only the recipients of the event’s three major honors, but a list of 25 people who have played integral roles in fighting HIV/AIDS in the area. Naming 25 such people ties into this being the 25th year of the walk.

The 2011 Courage Award goes to Justin Goforth, WWH’s director of medical adherence, community health and the Gay Men’s Health and Wellness Clinic. NBC 4 television station, an AIDS Walk partner since its 1987 start, will receive the Community Service Award; while Aisha Karimah, NBC 4’s director of community relations, will receive the Partner for Life Award.

Several on the ”25 for 25” list will also be familiar names to the LGBT community. Pat Hawkins, who spent nearly two decades working at Whitman-Walker – after six years volunteering – says, ”It’s just unbelievable to think it’s been 25 years.”

Now the executive director of the D.C. Community AIDS Network, and Whitman-Walker’s associate executive director for policy an external affairs till fiscal troubles led to her being laid off in late 2008, Hawkins, a licensed clinical social worker and psychologist, remembers her first AIDS Walk Washington with then-Executive Director Jim Graham, who today serves on the City Council and as one of three AIDS Walk Washington 2011 grand marshals.

”’We won’t have to do this for long,”’ she remembers them saying in 1987. ”We all thought there’d be a cure in 10 years. There was so much death yet to come.”

She also remembers, with obvious fondness, Niko, the cat she and her partner, Robin Halprin, had. In 2007, dressed in a tutu, Niko raised more than $2,000 for the cause.

Ron Simmons, also part of the ”25 for 25,” and executive director of Us Helping Us, People Into Living, says, ”It’s always an honor to be recognized for the work you do, especially by an institution like Whitman-Walker.”

He cautiously adds, however, ”The fact that we’re still doing AIDS Walk, that’s sad. But the way the government and the economy are going, we may be doing a lot more.”

The 25th annual AIDS Walk Washington, Saturday, Oct. 29, steps off from Freedom Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue & 13th Street NW, 9:15 a.m. 5k run at 8:30 a.m. General walk registration, $25; run, $35. For the full list of awardees or to register, visit aidswalkwashington.org. To register by phone, call 202-332-WALK.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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