Trinity Church Wall Street team in 2019 Aids Walk New York

AIDS Walk: A Lifelong Commitment

Trinity Church Wall Street parishioner Al DiRaffaele’s memories of the AIDS pandemic are deeply personal, and still painful.

“People were being carried out on stretchers and we were devastated by what we were seeing.

“My place was immediately going to St. Vincent’s Hospital. We went around from bed to bed trying to be there to comfort those who were dying. I think back at all those losses. So, it brings a tear to my eye.”

AIDS Walk New York began on May 18, 1986 and DiRaffaele has participated in all 36 of them, including the past two years when the walk went virtual because of COVID-19. 

Trinity parishioner Al DiRaffaele in group photo at 2017 AIDS Walk New York
Al DiRaffaele, second from left, at the 2017 AIDS Walk New York

DiRaffaele began recruiting walkers from Trinity almost a decade ago, and the church began contributing financially to AIDS Walk New York. This year, working together with Tamid, the downtown synagogue that meets at St. Paul’s Chapel, Trinity has surpassed its fundraising goal of $30,000. Contributions can continue to be made at

Bill McCue, also a Trinity parishioner, said that the Trinity-Tamid team led all faith-based organizations in this year’s city-wide fundraising. McCue’s own participation in AIDS Walk New York dates from the early 1990s, and he has seen changes in the way AIDS affects a community.

“This is something that I’m fond of saying. It’s no longer the disease of the pretty white boy. It’s the disease of everybody. And so it relates to everybody. Everybody has to be involved.”

Forty years ago this month, on June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control reported the first cases of a rare pneumonia in five gay men in Los Angeles that would later be linked to AIDS. GMHC, originally founded as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, launched a year later.

AIDS Walk New York is a major source of funding for GMHC, whose community resources include HIV testing, prevention and community health, housing and financial management, and legal advice. GMHC offers specialized programs to Black and Latinx people who are statistically more likely to be impacted by HIV and AIDS. And while new HIV infections in New York City fell to a historic low of 1,772 in 2019, there is still no vaccine, and no cure.

“There are so many benefits [provided by GMHC] to those who need the help now, more so with COVID-19. People are dealing with two crises. They may have COVID-19 plus AIDS,” DiRaffaele said.

“I got help from the people that were knowledgeable on insurance. They helped me get my insurance lowered.”

Trinity's team at AIDS Walk New York 2017
Bill McCue (back row, far right) with Trinity's team at the 2017 AIDS Walk New York

While still busy with the 2021 fundraising effort, which ends June 30, both Bill McCue and Al DiRaffaele are already looking forward to next year, and walking in person, as well as recruiting younger walkers.

“We’ve got to find our successors. If you look at some of the past Trinity groups that did it, look how many young children are involved. Teenagers, or kids who are younger than that.” said McCue.

When AIDS Walk 2022 steps off next May in Central Park, Al DiRaffaele plans to be there for the 37th time.

“AIDS is just overwhelming, but yet here I am, Lord, and I take it by giving. And I love giving, I love helping those who are in need. And that’s how I get through my day.”