Like many people who will be hitting the pavement on June 4 for the AIDS Walk and Run Boston, Kathy Gonzalez will be there for her loved ones. Her brother Albert was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, and her sister Judith is living with HIV today. Since Albert passed away in 1994 at just 31, the epidemic has felt very personal for her family.
“Losing our brother was very hard for us,” she said. “And just a few years after we lost my brother, my older sister was also diagnosed with HIV. Luckily, with advancements in medicine, and thanks for all the work that AIDS Action Committee has done for her, we still have her here today.”
“AIDS Action gave my sister guidance and support. I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am for how they’ve helped her,” Kathy said.
One of the groups most impacted by HIV/AIDS today is the Hispanic and Latinx community, and Kathy advocates for greater outreach and community engagement around prevention and care. “I see a lot of Hispanic people who need HIV/AIDS services, but I’m not seeing enough community support,” Kathy said. “We need to get Hispanic businesses more involved. There’s still so much stigma and misinformation; it’s time for more information to be out there and open to Spanish-speaking people.”
Five years ago, Kathy decided to join the Walk to honor Albert’s life and to support Judith’s ongoing battle, and the battles of so many living with HIV/AIDS. The first time she participated in AIDS Walk Boston, she did so as a two person team with her daughter. From these humble beginnings, Kathy saw her Walk team – Team Peaches – steadily grow over the years. As Team Peaches has proved, no team is too small to become a powerful force for good.
“We decided that it would be our goal for every year to bring on one or two more people,” she said. “And every year, we’ve been able to increase not only the number of people walking with us, but also our amount of fundraising.” Today, Team Peaches averages about $2,600 raised each Walk. This year, the team has grown to 50 members strong.
Fundraising can be intimidating, especially for first-timers, but reaching your goal doesn’t have to be daunting – in fact, it’s just a matter of simple math. “If we have 10 team members, who can get 10 people to give just $30, then our team can raise $3,000,” Kathy explained.
The real goal for Kathy, though, is to keep advocating – and walking – until new HIV infections are a thing of the past. “It’s 2017, and people are still getting infected despite all the information that’s out there,” she said. “We need a cure.”