Campus bikers participate in trans-state ride to raise HIV/AIDS awareness

Twenty-eight members of a team from the UC Berkeley community are currently among about 2,350 other participants in the midst of a seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds and awareness about HIV and AIDS.

The 545-mile journey, which began last Sunday and will end on Saturday, is run by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and involves bicyclists from 11 countries and nearly every state.

This year marks the 10th annual journey of the event, AIDS/LifeCycle, and also a record high amount of funds raised, totaling about $13 million.

“This is a big year for AIDS/LifeCycle,” said Christine Shaff, communications director for facilities services on campus and one of the co-captains of the campus’s team.

According to Stevie St. John, communications manager for the Los Angeles center, money raised for the event will go toward providing “very important services” supporting the two organizations.

This year’s campus team, which raised over $95,000 for the event, is composed of five undergraduates, five graduate students, six alumni, 11 staff members and one parent of an undergraduate student — the largest team ever from the campus. Members of the team are reporting their experiences from the road on a daily basis via the campus News Center online.

“It’s a really amazing experience to be with about 3,000 people all to support AIDS prevention,” said Joshua Schoenfeld, a graduate student member of the team.

In preparation for the ride, the event organizers held training sessions for riders throughout the year. Additionally, classes including bike maintenance, yoga and hill climbing were offered for participants.

Team member Harry Stark, director of facilities and engineering on campus, said in a blog post that training this year, though difficult, was rewarding.

“Braving the rain, fog and cold weather that seemed incessant since early February has been challenging,” Stark said in the post. “But the payoff is the feeling I get when I spend a week with 3,000 people bringing the best of who they are to the ride, be they riders, roadies or bystanders along the road cheering us on.”

Over the course of the event’s history, AIDS/LifeCycle has raised more than $140 million for HIV and AIDS services and awareness about the fact that AIDS is “an ongoing epidemic,” St. John said.

“It’s not over,” she said. “There are 1.1 million Americans living with HIV and AIDS, and the ride reminds thousands of people about the continued need for lifesaving services.”

According to several organizers of the event and current team members,  the event plays a significant role in raising awareness about AIDS and garnering funds for its prevention.

“HIV is still out there, and it hasn’t been cured,” said Steven Maranzana, who was on the campus’s team last year. “Raising awareness either through fundraising and riding through all those cities — we’re just getting the word out.”