This year’s annual AIDS Awareness Walk took place on Sunday and more than 45 people of all ages showed up to participate.
A few things changed this year, one of which was that the walk started at the Hazelton Secondary school to allow for better parking opposite the rest area along Highway 62 before Hagwilget Bridge. The second was the addition of a shorter walk for elderly and younger children who wanted to participate, as well the longer walk was changed to walk through the First Nations residential areas to bring more awareness, organizer Bev Busby said.
“This year you could have walked straight there or you could walk in and out of the reserves to bring a little more awareness,” she explained. “I think people seeing the T-shirts and people walking helps because people asked us what we were doing. We have people say they don’t need it (AIDS awareness) here but the numbers in the Northwest are the highest in B.C. so it’s important to get people thinking.”
Once again, Frances Sampson did their traditional opening with her speech followed by a prayer and this year Mark Larson spoke along with staff from Positive Living North at the Anglican Church Hall after the walk.
In addition to guest speakers, they gave out prizes, music filled the air at both the beginning and end of the walk with the Diamond Willow Boys, which is comprised of Alf Brady, John deBoer and Joe Sullivan.
Busby said while in the past the event was also a fundraiser this year they focused on the message.
“It can be a fund raiser with donations but different places do it differently and for me awareness is really important,” she said. “Gitxsan Health is a big funder and it’s important to reach as many people as you can and it’s all local business who donate the prizes.”
Every year in addition to the walk the participants are provided with T-Shirts. One is created locally and the other from the national sponsor.
This year’s local T-shirts, were designed by Dora jackson of Glen Vowell which boasted feathers and the logo and they also get free Scotia Bank National t-shirts.
“Usually everyone likes the local t-shirt,” Busby said. “It was green this year to change things and it’s nice to have bright colours and you could really spot us this year. When I looked down the hill ahead of me we really stood out.”
Once again they had the memory table for those who have lost a battle with AIDS and Busby added that she is still shocked how many people just don’t understand the dangers.
“Any awareness around protecting people is important,” she said. “In the Lower Mainland the numbers levelled out a few years ago but for some reason the north in Canada in general numbers are climbing. The highest increase in our area is aboriginal women and youth. I think a lot of it is people think it is hard to get tested anonymously and its not hard to do at all.”
As for why there is still a problem getting people to play it safe and test regularly, Busby says a big part is fear.
“People are still scared to get tested and I think people aren’t aware of how much it is spreading because of the lack of testing and the fear around it,” she said. “it really should be part of a healthy check up regularly for everyone.”