This week, guest videographer and editor Jesse James Rice and I are accompanying the more than 3000 riders and volunteers of the AIDS LifeCycle and collecting their stories. If you’re not familiar with ALC, it’s the world’s largest annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser where riders bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of 7 days. I won’t be riding a bike, but will be riding with the Press Corps, a group of reporters, photojournalists, bloggers, etc., to help document what has already been an amazing and emotional journey, and it’s only been one day as I’m writing this.
This year’s ALC is the biggest yet, bringing in more than $13 million to the prevention of and education about HIV/AIDS. It’s the 10 year anniversary of the ride and also the 30th anniversary of the first documented case of HIV in the U.S. We’re partnering with our friends over at Towleroad and will be uploading daily Video Stories there as well as right here on IFD. Be sure to “like” IFD on Facebook and follow us on Twitter as I’ll be uploading pics and updates along the way.
I’m Bob Katz. I’m from San Francisco. New York Native. I was 18 in 1969, you know, Stone Wall riots happened a month after my 18th birthday, and I didn’t even know I was gay back then, but it was one of those things that sort of caught my interest, but you know, I suppose I went through life with a certain amount of internalized homophobia. Um, 1980 I moved to D.C., started losing friends to Aids you know, later on, found out in 1985 I was positive. I mean I didn’t tell my family or my co-workers, but all of my friends- I think my friends found out within a day of me getting my results. It was just one of those, you know, Oh My God kind of things. In a way, I wasn’t surprised, but it was still a shock. The tests had literally been available for weeks back then. And there was no process for, you know, finding out your results, and counseling, and things like that. Um, my doctor said, you know, we’ll call you when your results come back. He called me up and said Oh yeah, you tested positive. Bye, talk to you later. I had a couple of friends who did the Aids ride early on, and I finally signed up in 1998, and I had been, you know, I’d kinda been sorta hush-hush about my status, but as soon as I joined, I became a member of positive peddlers, and the second year I rode, in 2000, they asked for volunteers to talk to the media in Long Polk, and I found myself on television. And the great thing about it, was that whatever remaining concerns I had about being open about being HIV positive, that was kind of it. You know, when you go on television, and say you’re HIV positive, it’s just one of those things- it’s so incredibly empowering to be able to not have to feel like having HIV is a secret that you need to keep. And you discover, over and over again, the more you open up about who you are, that people really do care about you. You know the best thing you can do about your life is to be open about who you are, and not live in secrecy and shame and hiding.