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Dear Friends and Family,
On July 8th and 9th I WILL participate in my 6th Ride for AIDS Chicago - and I am asking for your support. The Ride is 200 miles (100 miles each of the two days) and all of the proceeds raised support those in our community living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. I highlight the word will because: (1) it is an action verb like, “come hell or high-water I WILL do the AIDS Ride this year” but more importantly, (2) the word will is descriptive of how I am feeling these days as in, “I have the WILL to push myself and do something to help others.”
This past year was undoubtedly VERY difficult for me. Many of you know I have REALLY struggled with painful, if not often debilitating neuropathy in my hands making it hard to write at times or type (or frankly even consider riding a bike). But with the help of many doctors, and therapies and a renewed commitment to taking care of myself in the broadest and most holistic ways I am confident that I will make a complete recovery.
It was a little more than 7 years ago now that I tested positive for HIV. It was without question the most devastating moment and loneliest time in my life. It may be 2017 and we may be 30+ years into the HIV epidemic, but stigma related to HIV is alive and well. Guilt, shame and isolation are far-too-often what people diagnosed with HIV grapple with. They (…We) manage stigma along with trying to get connected to care and take lifesaving medication. I am not proud to say, I almost lost myself to self-imposed isolation and loneliness -- unable to afford myself the same compassion I have spent my career giving to others living with HIV. I struggled to find my footing and rediscover peace and joy in my life. But mine is a success story. With the help of my dog Fred - I found the courage to re-engage with the world and open up my heart to friends and family who have been singularly supportive. Thankfully, I have many luxuries in life -- a stable home, a job, health insurance, the love and support for those around me - luxuries that far too many, many people living with HIV do not have. THAT'S WHERE THE AIDS RIDE COMES IN.
The monies raised by the Ride for AIDS Chicago support the services that people living with HIV need and all-too-often have a hard time getting. My Team - Team Fred - is a community partner in the 2017 Ride. This means that the monies raised support the mission of BOTH Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) and Fred Says -- the personal charity I started in 2012 with my dog to support agencies across the country that help and support HIV+ youth. To-date Fred Says – with your help – has given back over $200,000 to those in need. For those who may not be familiar with TPAN - I can assure you that this agency in Chicago serves people that NO OTHER agency in Chicago either seeks to serve or can do so well. They save lives - with care and support services for marginalized populations living with HIV.
Two years ago - during my 4th AIDS Ride I wrote an article for Positively Aware magazine detailing, “Why I Ride”. Please take the time to click on this link and read the article as it is both personal and pays tribute to many of my friends who have inspired me over the years. Without question participating in the Ride for AIDS Chicago was part of my own healing related to my HIV diagnosis: http://positivelyaware.com/articles/why-I-ride
Humbly I ask for your support. I know you each receive numerous requests for fundraising support - and I completely understand if this request is not something you can commit to. However, if you can contribute and if you want to help us end stigma and end the epidemic that HIV has become -- then consider a donation using the link below.
Robert Garofalo MD, MPH
Division Chief. Adolescent Medicine
Director, Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
T 773.303.6058 | F 773.754.7618 | email@example.com | luriechildrens.org
225 East Chicago Avenue, Box 161, Chicago, Illinois 60611-2605
Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Editor-in-Chief. Transgender Health
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers
**Help Support HIV+ Teens: www.fredsays.org
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I'm committed... to be a catalyst for change in HIV/AIDS Community by raising vital funds for those living with or at risk for HIV while simultaneously fighting the shame and stigma associated with the disease.
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