'American Idol' finalist RJ Helton, Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether help lead annual march

AID Atlanta gears up for AIDS Walk

On Sunday, Oct. 20, Piedmont Park will host AID Atlanta’s 23rd annual AIDS Walk & 5K Run. The event has grown to be the largest AIDS-related fundraising event in the Southeast. In 2012 alone, the walk had an estimated 10,000 participants and raised more than $940,000 for eight area AIDS Service Organizations.

“AID Atlanta is excited to embark on our annual AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run campaign,” says Cathy Woolard, Interim Executive Director of AID Atlanta. “The event brings a diverse group together in support of those living with HIV/AIDS, education and prevention to reduce new infections and a forum to remember those we have lost to the disease. We are most grateful to those who raise funds to support the campaign; the funds make it possible for us to continue our necessary work in metro Atlanta where the rate of HIV infection continues to rise.”

The yearly event benefits thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS. Since its inception, the AIDS Walk Atlanta  and the later added 5k Run has increased awareness of HIV/AIDS throughout the community and attracts approximately 10,000 participants each year.


AID Atlanta and the seven participating agencies, who benefit from the annual fundraising event, provide treatment and medications, prevention education, meals, hospice, mental health services, child care, substance abuse counseling, pastoral care, and clinical research to help thousands of our families, neighbors and friends living with, affected by, and at risk for HIV/AIDS in Atlanta.


As the event has continued to grow over the years it has attracted numerous celebrity endorsements, and this year is no different.


First to come onboard this time around was former Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether, who is an active advocate for HIV/AIDS programs through her organization The Meriwether Foundation, which provides nutrition, education, prevention, counseling and testing in South Afric

Meriwether will welcome the crowd during the opening ceremony.

“I am excited to be part of the event, in an effort to change the future of HIV/AIDS,” says Meriwether. “HIV/AIDS affects so many lives, and I am happy to encourage others to raise critical funds for AIDS service organizations throughout the Atlanta area.”

Also joining the cause is American Idol finalist RJ Helton, an Atlanta native, who rose quickly to fame after finishing in the Top 5 during American Idol Season One.


“I walk for the millions of men women and children living with HIV and AIDS,” says Helton.”And for the millions of people this disease has already taken. I walk for the friends and families who mourn every day, and for the millions of people who don’t have access or the resources to the life saving medications they so critically need. I walk because I care and I walk because I believe we can find a cure.”


Helton is an Atlanta native, who captured national attention for his performance on the show, and for his decision to come out publicly as a gay man in 2006, despite the fact his following was largely a Christian gospel music-based audience.


SIRIUS radio show host Larry Flick asked the young performer why he was no longer performing gospel music, despite his large fan base.


“I can have a faith but can’t be who I want to be. So a lot of it was just personal things I needed to overcome and just be proud of who I was. Just because I am gay does not mean I can’t love God.”
Helton will perform during the opening ceremony.


It’s still not too late to register for the 2013 AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run. For more information visit www.aidswalkatlanta.com or call (404) 876-WALK (9255).


Meriwether is adamant about the need for community participation in AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run.


”According to the Georgia Department of Community Health,” she explains, “Georgia is ranked sixth in the nation for new HIV infections. This disease is something that truly affects everyone.”
For more information, visit www.aidswalkatlanta.com