HIV/AIDS fundraiser march brings out 10,000

Sunday morning a crowd of an estimated 10,000 people gathered at Place du Canada for the Farha Foundation’s annual AIDS fundraiser, a 7 kilometer walk across downtown Montreal.
The event, which has become the largest AIDS fundraiser in the province, is held every year to raise money to support AIDS relief organizations and to raise public awareness of the virus.
Amongst Sunday’s marchers were several members of AIDS relief organizations such as Stella. The organization, which is a sex worker’s union, offers various relief services to other sex workers in order to help them improve the quality of their lives and their working conditions.
Jenn Clamen, a Stella spokesperson, took last Sunday’s event as an opportunity to criticize the federal government. Clamen accused the Ministry of Health of withholding funds that should have been awarded to Stella as a subvention eight months ago.
“It’s really hard to keep going without that money. We’re still functioning, but we’re struggling a great deal to keep the quality of our services the same.”
Clamen hinted last week that the federal government’s cutting back on subventions to AIDS relief organizations could mean trouble for the future: “We don’t want to see HIV rates rise among the next generation,” said Clamen in a press release advertising Sunday’s march.
Farha Foundation spokesperson Linda Farha insists that prevention is the most important objective of the annual walk.
“When we started this back in the early 90s, people knew that there was a terrible disease going on but there was not enough awareness. We wanted to tell the public: ‘listen up, there is a big problem and there is no solution except prevention’,” said Farha.
Farha claims that the Farha foundation’s prevention role is still important now since AIDS is now affecting people that were not traditionally common targets of HIV.
“It is not exclusively young people that are affected anymore, but also baby-boomers. Many of them are starting new relationships and too often they do not use protection,” said Farha.
The AIDS relief organizations which the Farha Foundation donates to provides services such as housing, direct care service, food and hygiene, medication and medical services, outpatient services and direct care services.

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