Six years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, a friend and I were driving along the Pacific Coast Highway near the school where we both taught. There were so many cyclists on the road, and my friend said, “You see all those bikers? They rode their bikes all the way from San Francisco for AIDS or something.”
“What?” I said. “That’s insane! How is that even possible?” We shrugged our shoulders and didn’t give it another thought.
Much has changed since. I moved back to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, I’m a nurse, and I couldn’t be more excited about riding 545 miles over seven days in the AIDS/LifeCycle.
The first time I learned anything significant about ALC came a couple years after moving back to Ohio. Some late-night channel-surfing brought me to Logo as The Ride: Seven Days to End AIDS was starting. The documentary was both touching and inspiring. The money raised by ALC directly saves lives by focusing on prevention for high-risk populations and by providing medical care and other services for people living with HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California was second only to New York in the number of people living with HIV and had the third highest rate of new infections in 2009. With that in mind, this ride is an absolute necessity.
Later, a friend from L.A. rode in his first ALC. I enthusiastically donated to all three of his rides, but this year I felt a bit jealous. “Why can’t I do that?” I thought. At first, the rhetorical question was just a complaint, but when I really thought about it, I had no good answer.
I registered for the ride shortly thereafter, and I was bursting with excitement. I found a bike that I loved and took my training to the road in February with snow on the ground.
What began as a general desire to help people affected by HIV and AIDS has grown into a much more personal one. I have cared for a number of HIV-positive individuals as a nurse, but one I met earlier this spring stands out. He was the kind of friendly and appreciative patient who made me glad I became a nurse. I came to his room to give him a few pills while he was visiting with his pastor. We had a good rapport already, so he continued talking while I clicked away at the computer. He told his pastor that he had just found out he is HIV-positive. I already knew about his status, and I was very sad for his news. However, he told his pastor that he had taken care of friends with AIDS in the past, and he would do what he had always told them to do. He would take care of himself, take the meds his doctors give him, eat the right foods, get enough sleep, and get some exercise.
As he continued speaking words of hope, I felt a wave of calmness and relief move through me. Though I didn’t show it, I was taken aback when I realized what had happened. He comforted me, when it should have been the other way around. He made it less scary and gave me hope for him. His courage and hope were inspiring and, although he does not know it, he has become my inspiration for riding.
I am riding for the HIV-positive people who can no longer ride. I am riding for the HIV-positive individuals who feel they have no hope, and I hope the services provided by the funds I raise will give them hope.