Rebranding AIDS Walk

Annual fundraiser for Whitman-Walker Health's HIV research changes name to reflect advances in treatment

Blanchon Gray AIDS Walk 2013

Don Blanchon (left), the executive director of Whitman-Walker Health, with Mayor Vincent Gray at the 2013 AIDS Walk Washington. Photo by Ward Morrison

Whitman-Walker Health, the District’s top nonprofit community health center that specializes in the research, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS and LGBT culturally competent care, announced Wednesday that it will be rebranding its annual fundraiser, formerly known as AIDS Walk Washington, as The Walk to End HIV. 

“The name change reflects a cataclysmic shift to what HIV is today — a chronic, manageable disease,” Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman-Walker Health, said in a press release announcing the rebranding. “Historically, the term AIDS was about a plague we had no answers for and almost certain death for those diagnosed. Thankfully, this has changed dramatically over the past three decades. Now, addressing the HIV epidemic is about caring for the health and well-being of the whole person. 

“We also know that with increased testing and treatment we can prevent HIV infections,” Blanchon continued in his statement. “Changing the name of a signature D.C. event after nearly three decades is a way to focus attention on getting us to that ultimate finish line — providing care for all who are HIV-positive and getting to zero new infections.”

The event, which includes both a walk and a 5-kilometer timed run, will celebrate its 28th year on October 25. Proceeds from the event will benefit the HIV-related programs and services of Whitman-Walker Health and more than 20 community partners also benefitting those affected by HIV. Every year, walk organizers seek to raise close to $1 million, with last year’s event raking in more than $800,000 from over 7,000 participants who sought donations from family, friends and acquaintances. Donors may also seek to sponsor a team for the event.

“From the time I started training to become a doctor in the late 1990s to now, the advances in HIV treatment, prevention, and delivery of care have been remarkable,” Raymond Martins, the chief medical officer of Whitman-Walker Health, said in a statement. “When we say that we are walking to end HIV, this is not just a pipe dream. Even without a cure or vaccine, through testing, early detection, and a comprehensive care plan, we can create an AIDS-free city and hopefully be moving towards ending HIV. We have the tools and we know how to do it. Now we need everyone’s participation to make it a reality.”

The Walk to End HIV will begin and end at Freedom Plaza, at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street NW, on October 25, with the 5K run starting at 9:15 a.m. and the regular walk starting at 9:20 a.m. For more information about participating or donating to the walk, visit www.walktoendhiv.org.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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