Community supports HIV awareness run

HARLINGEN — They may have started out slow, but that’s not how it ended.

Organizers were beginning to wonder if the ADELANTE 5K-1 mile Walk/Run would really take off or just limp along to the finish line.

Just weeks before the run/walk to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, only about 70 runners had signed up. That number was far short of the 300 needed to raise money for HIV testing and education initiatives.

However, to the delight of everyone at the Westbrook Clinic, which coordinated the event, momentum soon picked up. Yesterday morning 300 runners of all ages showed up to participate in the event.

“The community-wide support was great,” said Oscar Lopez, education director at the Westbrook Clinic, also known as the Valley AIDS Council.

“We had tons of children, little elementary age children running one mile, and then we had high school kids come out as well,” he said. “IDEA brought out a busload of kids as well to participate.”

He also thanked numerous sponsors who supported the event, some of them being Runner’s World, Tipsy Tavern and Walgreens.

“We had a lot of vendors who had their booths set up because they specifically promote more nutritional foods and facilities that promote exercise and wellness,” Lopez said.

He gave special thanks to Harlingen Police Chief Jeffry Adickes.

“The chief of police not only ran, but he and his officers donated their time for our event,” Lopez said.

The slow response early on highlighted the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and emphasized the importance of education. He wasn’t sure yet how much money had been raised, but it was all crucial in the fight against AIDS on a variety of fronts.

“We don’t know how much we’ve made yet because that’s still being counted,” he said. “The money is being used for prevention. Every entry fee is enough to provide one HIV test for somebody in the community. Everything will be related to prevention whether it be brochures, there’s PrEP access, testing, all of that.”

PrEP means Pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a medication used to prevent HIV infection.

Ironically, Lopez said, organizers had to stop signing up runners after reaching 300. More people wanted to participate but there weren’t enough medals to go around.