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Empath Partners In Care talks with Watermark 11/29/17

Local husbands lace up for the 14th annual Tampa Bay AIDS Walk & 5k

BY : RYAN WILLIAMS-JENT
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St. Petersburg | Tampa Bay’s 14th annual AIDS Walk & 5k will be held Dec. 9 at the Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, and the city is lacing up for the event benefiting EPIC/Empath Health.

In its 14 years, the event has drawn thousands of walkers and runners, with even more donating crucial funds to raise over $1 million to combat HIV/AIDS.

Last year, 750 participants registered for the event, an impressive $123,000 was raised, and organizers are hopeful for larger numbers this year to impact the community on an even grander scale. Aside from volunteers and participants, the walk will also feature three food trucks, a children’s zone, music from Watermark contributor and Hot 101.5’s Miguel Fuller and a special viewing of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Helping them to achieve their fundraising and attendance goal is the event’s top fundraising team thus far, which has collected just under $4,000 as of late November. That team is Tech Data, a global distributor of technology products based in Clearwater.

Chrys Bundy leads the Tech Data funding team for the walk and serves on its committee, and his husband, Robert Brennan, serves as co-chair for this year’s event. The duo has been together for 12 years, married for seven, and began participating in Tampa Bay’s walk after moving to the area in 2014.

“We’re nearing 40 years old, and as we were coming into our adulthood, there was non-stop talk about safe sex,” Chrys said. “At that time, becoming HIV positive was a death sentence. The fight for safer sex was beat into us… no one thought of anything else.”

But that’s no longer the case, he notes, with the disease becoming “more like a chronic illness, like diabetes.” It’s of course a wonderful thing, those diagnosed with the disease living longer, but it’s often contingent upon their access to affordable health care.

“And there’s so many people out there that don’t have it,” Chrys warns. “It’s so important to keep awareness, because more and more of today’s youth aren’t used to hearing those mantras of safe sex [like we did.]”

“Especially in Florida,” Robert agrees. “We have one of the highest infection rates in the country. It’s even more important for us to get ahead of the issue and to be present in the community.”

“It’s one of those things where we can have an impact on the community to encourage better sexual behavior, for lack of a better term,” he says. “It’s important that we’re out there and helping the community. The AIDS walk, I think, is an opportunity to really show our presence to the community, and [to show] that we’re here to work together to combat HIV and AIDS.”

Registration for this year’s walk, which is free, begins on site at 8 a.m. on Dec. 9. In order to receive an event t-shirt, $35 must be raised—the same fee for participating in the 5k. 5k participation includes a t-shirt, a medal and a timing chip.

An opening ceremony will be held at 9 a.m., the 5k will begin fifteen minutes later, and walkers will depart at 9:30 a.m. You can visit TampaBayAIDSWalk.org to learn more, pre-register for the event or to donate if you’re unable to attend.

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