After two years as a virtual event, the AIDS Walk New York returned to Central Park in 2022, with thousands of participants gathering to fundraise and advocate in support of HIV/AIDS treatment, research, and education.
Walking among them, as always, was a team representing the Trinity Church Wall Street community — many of them recruited over the years by longtime AIDS Walk NY participant and Trinity parishioner Al DiRaffaele.
“I’m blessed to be a survivor of AIDS and blessed to have participated in every AIDS Walk NY since the first in 1986,” says DiRaffaele.
The walk began as an action lead by GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), the world’s first HIV/AIDS service organization, founded in New York City in 1981 to raise funds and provide community support to people impacted by the rapidly spreading epidemic — then thought to be predominately impacting the LGBTQ+ community.
Thirty-six years after the first gathering, the AIDS Walk NY continues to benefit GMHC and other HIV/AIDS service, social justice, and public health organizations in the tristate area, whose work is still urgently needed. During the COVID-19 lockdown, GMHC pivoted to providing in-home support to their isolated and immunosuppressed clients, including meal delivery and crisis counseling. The uptick in HIV cases in NYC since the easing of COVID restrictions demonstrates the continued necessity of these services.
As the AIDS crisis spread into a global and longstanding pandemic, Al DiRaffaele has seen a shift over the years in the crowds participating in the walk — noting that what was once a concern of the LGBTQ+ community has become a universal cause.
“To see the change from an all-gay walk to a family affair hurts, knowing AIDS is now a threat to everyone,” he says. “It doesn’t discriminate!”
On May 21, 2023, Trinity’s AIDS Walk team will set off once again, with a fundraising goal of $10,000. All are welcome to join by walking, donating, or spreading the word.
“We are so happy to gather every year for AIDS Walk NY and bring our church community together while we walk in support of services for those impacted by HIV/AIDS,” says Cindy Jay, Chair of Trinity’s Witness & Outreach Committee, who is helping to organize Trinity’s effort this year.
And while AIDS is an issue of universal concern, as Al DiRaffaele notes, the walk remains rooted in the history of LGBTQ+ community organizing. “LGBTQ+ causes never go away,” says Cindy Jay. “As allies and community members we continue to confront the challenges that exist after decades and decades of discrimination. We recognize and support LGBTQ+ well-being, from civil rights to health and beyond, and are as committed as we are proud to do so.”
“Of course, every year I hope the AIDS Walk NY will come to an end,” says Al DiRaffaele, “ending this nightmare not only for myself, but for the world!”
Until then, the Trinity team will be walking — and they invite you to take part. Learn more about how you can participate this year.