AIDS Walk for Life on Thursday

Organizers hope this year's walk will see huge support from community

The number of people participating in the annual AIDS Walk for Life has been dropping every year, but the need for awareness is as pressing as ever, say Craig Dales, who is helping to organize this Thursday’s walk.

“The numbers year after year after year keep dropping and dropping,” said Dales, executive director of Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society, which has 198 members.

“A lot of people are thinking that HIV isn’t a big issue … but it still is, for sure.”

While advancements have been made in medication, managing the disease still comes with many challenges, such as side effects to drugs and stigma, Dales said.

VPWAS hosts the walk along with the Victoria AIDS Resource and Community Service Society.

“People are still being infected and ongoing support from the public is crucial,” said Karen Dennis, executive director of VARCS.

The event begins at 5 p.m. at Centennial Square with speakers and entertainment. At 6 p.m. the walk begins, down Government Street to the legislature, where a closing ceremony takes place.

In 2010, there were 33 positive HIV tests on Vancouver Island, according to AIDS Vancouver Island.

Decades ago, gay men in their 30s were the most likely to be diagnosed, but today infection rates are up among youth, Dales said.

“In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had several new members come in and they’ve all been in their early 20s,” he said.

For more information, visit www.varcs.org.

rholmen@vicnews.com