Angie Evans first became involved in the Central AIDS Walk after a friend admitted to her in college he was infected with HIV.
The Troy native and current CFX radio afternoon host said the disease later advanced to AIDS and he eventually passed away. Evans said before her friend died, he made it a point to share his story with others and how having the disease affected his life.
“He informed all of his friends about what it meant and didn’t mean,” she said. “He was an educator and now I am big on anything that can educate our community so they’re not so scared about a disease that is preventable.”
About 150 people attended Saturday’s walk at Island Park. This is the third year the Central Michigan Health Department has hosted the event.
Evans stressed the importance to get tested for HIV and said she and her friends try to make it a big deal when it comes to that time of year to get tested.
CMHD Health Officer Mary Kushion said the idea to host a walk came from other walks around Michigan.
“It’s a statewide thing,” she said. “There are AIDS walks all over Michigan in cities such as Ann Arbor, Jackson, Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Bay City, Midland and Saginaw.”
Peter Gulick, an associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University and this year’s Central AIDS Walk keynote speaker, also helps spread awareness about prevention of HIV.
Gulick first became interested in AIDS research more than 30 years ago. Over the course of time, has done community service, educating people around Michigan, including teaching AIDS courses at MSU.
“What I hope people learn about this education and research is the changes we’ve seen in HIV,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see a terminal illness become a chronic illness.”
Gulick said even though the survival rate of AIDS went up, it’s still important to know about prevention because it will reduce the chance of the disease being spread.
“Back in the ’80s, the survival rate of the AIDS disease was two years,” he said. “Now it’s 38 years.”
Melissa DeRoche, health promotion and preparedness supervisor, said in addition to educating people about the HIV disease, the walk also helps to raise money for infected patients.
“We help raise funds for those who are infected with HIV/AIDs to meet their daily basic needs,” she said. “All the money we raise goes to the local community and we help with needs they might not otherwise be able to get such as things like gas or medical costs.”
For Canton senior Brittany Turner, she has done the walk since it first started.
“I chose to do the walk because I think it (the disease) is a constant concern for students,” Turner said. “It’s a really big issue and needs more time spent on research to prevent it.”