Cyclists take AIDS battle to the streets
Medication isn’t the only way to fight disease.
Local Brian Stricker is doing his part in the fight against AIDS by participating in this year’s California AIDS Ride.
The AIDS Ride began in San Francisco in 1994. During its first year, the ride raised $1 million for AIDS research.
This year the AIDS Ride will be featured in four areas of the country including California and is expected to raise $15 million to fight AIDS.
The California AIDS ride begins June 3 in San Francisco and ends seven days later in Los Angeles. Participants must raise $2,700 to enter.
Stricker was moved to participate by his friend and former Tahoe resident, Nanette Sheets. Sheets contracted the AIDS virus and died as a result in 1997.
“I met (Sheets) at a weekend workshop and for some reason we just connected in a hurry,” Stricker said. “It was a brother-sister friendship we had. I had such tremendous respect for the way she dealt with the virus. Instead of feeling sorry for herself she turned it to the center of her life to be an advocate for people with AIDS.”
Stricker said participating in the AIDS Ride serves more of a purpose than raising money.
“I want to be a source of information and learning for people,” Stricker said. “I am the rider, but I want everyone who contributes to feel involved and know they have just as much a part in it as I do.”
Stricker said he looks at the AIDS epidemic as more than just a local or a national issue. He pointed out that in certain African nations as many as one in four people in the total population are infected with the virus.
“In Africa certain social taboos keep people from dealing with (AIDS) practically,” Stricker said. “Huge strides have been made. I think there is a lot more understanding than there was five years ago. There is a lot of fear around something people don’t understand.”
The popularity of the AIDS Ride has grown from its humble beginnings. In the initial year of the program 478 people participated. This year 3,000 riders are expected for the 575 mile trek from San Francisco to L.A., the maximum number allowed due to space constraints. All spots in the ride were full by January, but Stricker said people can still help out by making monetary contributions and cheering on the riders.
Stricker, a 42-year-old mountain biker, said he has been training in preparation for the ride.
“I actually did some long road rides about 15 years ago,” Stricker said. “I am definitely having to force my body back into the bicycle seat. I started training about two weeks ago. I want to be strong enough not only to make it through the ride, but I want to be strong enough to help other riders, cheering them on.”
While Stricker has a space reserved for the ride he has only raised about half of the required $2,700 entry donation. Most of his financial support has come from personal pledges. While Stricker does not have a major sponsor he is still looking for persons or organizations to contribute to his ride.
“I would definitely be open to sponsorship,” Sticker said. “I’d wear tees or whatever, get the word out there. We are running out of time. May 11 is the deadline for donations.”
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