By Nicole Dial
City News Reporter

As the spread of AIDS has come to affect more and more people, a group of about 350 gathered on the wharf for the 10-kilometer Santa Cruz AIDS walk last Saturday to raise awareness and funds to combat this deadly epidemic.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 30,000 people are infected each year and an estimated 400,000 people are living with HIV and AIDS in the United States alone. Thirty million people live with HIV and AIDS worldwide, according to a UNAIDS study.

Since its inception in Los Angeles in 1985, the AIDS Walk has expanded to other cities and grown in numbers and contributors.

The event was co-sponsored by UC Santa Cruz’s Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) and the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP) and run with the support of volunteers and the local community.

SCAP provides the community with services such as HIV testing, financial aid, wellness events, housing, counseling, needle exchange and education in the local communities.

Though not as large as the San Francisco and Los Angeles events, the AIDS Walk in Santa Cruz raises between $20,000 and $40,000 each year to continue funding for SCAP and other local AIDS projects. This year it raised about $30,000.

“With all the funding cutbacks, this money is invaluable,” SHOP coordinator Jane Bogart said.

The Bay Federal team won this year’s team competition by raising $2,065, followed by Team Kresge with Team Horizontes in third place.

Students in the UCSC course “Biology of AIDS” raised over $21,000 in donations. Lecturer Mary Zavanelli, who teaches the course, made participation in the drive a class requirement.

“I’ve always been very aware of the impact,” Zavanelli said. “Even now I’m relearning to what depth how many people it has affected.”

Zavanelli is trying to get more students engaged in lending a helping hand to those around them, she said.

“The problem is local, not just a course credit,” Zavanelli said. “Part of the college experience is getting out and in the community to volunteer.”

There were many other student volunteers who helped staff the booths and run the event.

“It’s good to be helping in the community,” Maneth Godoy said, as she and several other members of the sorority Sigma Pi Alpha worked one of the booths handing out T-shirts to those who raised over $1,000.

Participants of the walk began at the end of the Santa Cruz wharf and walked on a path that snaked along West Cliff to Natural Bridges and back.

Other volunteers waited at the Lighthouse and at Natural Bridges to cheer on the walkers. Even Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty and UCSC mascot Sammy the Slug showed up to support the walkers.

Community presence and awareness make the difference in the continuation of funding and support of local AIDS organizations.

“We definitely raised more this year,” Bogart said. “The turnout was phenomenal.”