While many people are unaware of the high ratio of AIDS cases in San Luis Obispo County, the 15th annual “AIDS Walk for Life,” which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Santa Rosa Park, is an effort to raise awareness about AIDS and help raise money for the AIDS Support Network.

“Although the (disease) has changed a lot in the 15 years that we’ve been doing this, one of the biggest reasons that we started doing it and continue doing it, is to raise awareness in the community,” said Edie Kahn, AIDS Support Network executive director.

ASN assists those suffering with HIV or AIDS. While their focus is not to provide medical treatment, they offer assistance with programs to get medication, mental health counseling, rent and utilities, lab work, transportation, a food closet and more. They currently serve about 135 clients on a daily basis.

Last year’s Walk For Life raised $76,000. “This year we’re hoping to get to $80,000,” Kahn said.

Walkers who raise $100 for the event will receive a free T-shirt. Registration begins Saturday at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m. People who don’t raise money are still welcome at the event, Kahn said. “(We’d like a) big presence downtown . that’s important to us.”

In June 2006, the San Luis Obispo County Health Department released a report saying that San Luis Obispo’s AIDS rate is higher than that of neighboring counties, which is likely due to the higher institutional population. According to the report, Santa Barbara County’s prevalence rate is 71 and Monterey County’s is 92.

“(We need to) acknowledge that there is a problem,” said Stephanie Mack, a biochemistry senior and ASN volunteer. “(The walk) is more of a community outreach – It’s more involved for everybody.”

“I’m really involved in the HIV community – I think it’s a great cause” Mack said, who studied abroad in South Africa and decided to begin volunteering with ASN when she returned. “HIV/AIDS is really important to me, so I wanted to help out as much as possible with the community that I’m in.”

The walk begins and ends at Santa Rosa Park, but will stop halfway to “have a little dance party in our parking lot,” with a Cal Poly disc jockey, Kahn said.

Other organizations along with ASN will be helping with the event.

Woods Humane Society is helping to put on the “rent-a-dog” fundraiser where participants can rent a dog for the walk and the proceeds will be split evenly between Woods and ASN. “It’s a fun thing that happens every once in a while,” Kahn said.

“We have a great fraternity who’s going to be doing our barbecue for us,” Kahn said. Gamma Zeta Alpha will help put on the barbecue for the second year in a row at Santa Rosa Park immediately following the walk for all those who participated in the event. “They were a whole bunch of fun last year,” Kahn said.

Kahn said that many Cal Poly students are already planning on participating in the walk, but ASN would love to get more people to join them. “It’s a great opportunity if people have service clubs they’re involved in,” Kahn said.

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