The disease doesn’t make headlines the way it did in two previous decades, which is exactly why the AIDS Walk for Life — held later this month — is so important.

In addition to raising money for Ottawa-based HIV/AIDS organizations, the walk raises awareness that the disease is still something people need to think about, said Jonathon Braun, special events assistant for the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life.

“With all the treatment and the medication, people forget that this is so important,” said Braun. “It’s lost the exposure that it got in the ’80s and ’90s.”

In its 19th year, the walk, which is held across the country, keeps growing. While it raises funds for services in Ottawa, another reason to participate in the free event Sept. 19 is to walk in solidarity with those affected by AIDS.

“It’s important to have people walking in support of people living with HIV/AIDS,” Braun said. “The stigma can be more damaging than the disease itself, so the support of the community is an important thing.”

In Ottawa, there are about 3,000 people who are HIV-positive. About one-third don’t yet know they are infected, Braun said.

While there is ongoing research towards an HIV vaccine, there is still no cure, Braun said. “The only prevention against HIV is education.”

With a fundraising goal of $100,000, the walk benefits seven Ottawa organizations with HIV/AIDS programming: Bruce House, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, the Youth Services Bureau, the Snowy Owl AIDS Foundation, the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, Pink Triangle Services and Planned Parenthood. Last year, more than 800 people participated in the walk.

“It’s really a diverse set of people coming out to the walk,” Braun said. “We have high schools that get involved, people in their 90s and people in strollers.”

Participants can sign up at

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