Mass rides to mark World AIDS Day

Cyclists across California will hit the saddle to raise awareness

Cyclists in California will mark World AIDS Day with a series of mass rides. The events on Monday aim to tackle the prejudice and stigma associated with AIDS and HIV.

In Los Angeles, riders will set off from Beverly Hills High School at 8am. The event has been organised by AIDS activist Brian Hodes and Team UTAC (Until There's A Cure). Participants, who are being asked to wear red, will cycle 28 miles through Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica.

Mr Hodes said: "The students and the faculty of Beverly Hills High School have embraced this beyond my wildest expectations. From the moment I pitched the idea to Principal Guidetti, they ran with it. I'm happy to say tolerance is alive and well at Beverly Hills High."

Students will hear from people living with HIV at a special assembly and panels from the original AIDS quilt will be on display. Youngsters will be asked to walk alongside the cyclists on the school's track to commemorate the 28 years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

For Mr Hodes, the World AIDS Day Ride (WAR) will be followed by a 24-hour ride to promote AIDS awareness, beginning at 6pm. His daughter Sophia, who is a senior at BH High, said: "My dad is the most amazing man I've ever met. He stands so passionately for doing what's right. I'm so proud of him and thank God every day that he's my dad."

Several rides will also take place in the San Francisco Area. The largest is being organized by the Positive Pedalers, a non-profit organisation of HIV-positive riders who raise money for AIDS research and services.

For last year's inaugural ride, Team UTAC mobilised cycling groups in hundreds of cities around the world, including in England, Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Ghana. This year's ride is being supported by businesses including the House of Blues, Cannondale Bikes, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars and POM Wonderful juices.

AIDS has killed more than 33 million people in the past 28 years, with an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history.

Until There's A Cure is an American non-profit organisation dedicated to eradicating HIV/AIDS by raising awareness and funds for vaccine development, care services and youth education. For more information about UTAC, call 1-800-88-UNTIL or visit www.until.org.

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