Solidarity, aloha for all on display at first Honolulu AIDS Walk held in 2 years
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A sea of red engulfed Kapiolani Park on Saturday morning for the return of the Honolulu AIDS Walk, celebrating its 31st anniversary after a two-year pause because of the pandemic.
People of all ages — and their pets — trailed the almost two-mile park in solidarity with the millions lost and battling the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The message of the event: “AIDS is not over.”
Two of Hawaii’s largest LGBTQ serving organizations united for the first time to execute the day-long event: The Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center, which hosted the walk, and the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation, which followed the walk with a free community picnic.
“It’s really a celebration of being able to continue to fight the stigma of AIDS and providing the community with the resources to hopefully provide a world without AIDS one day,” said Randy Soriano, member of both organizations.
Organizers hoped to reach $100,000 in donations to go toward HIV/AIDS services in Hawaii.
By Saturday afternoon, donations exceeded $102,000.
The celebrations kicked off with performances, including a serenade from Henry Kapono.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green was among the elected officials to speak at the pre-walk rally. With a red flag in-hand, Green said he was walking for two of his uncles who suffered through the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Participants were encouraged to plant their pint-sized flags in the “field of remembrance” section, with the names of commemorated individuals written on each.
Free HIV and hepatitis rapid tests were offered among the vendors in the pre-walk camp.
While the walk was a celebration and a chance to raise awareness, many were also thinking about the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should review cases involving LGBT rights, including the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
“I think yesterday’s ruling just shows us that nothing can be taken for granted,” said Andrew Ogata, community relations manager of the Health and Harm Reduction Center.
“HIV/AIDS is still important. There’s no cure yet. We still have people living with HIV and becoming newly infected every day.”
As Pride Month nears its end, organizers hope the event represents the fellowship and resilience of the Hawaii LGBT community — which holds the Honolulu Pride Month in October.
“We got kupunas out here. We got aunties and uncles. We got people repping their churches,” said AIDS walk participant Jessica Phromsiri, who brought her young nephew.
“It’s all inclusive. It’s OK. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
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