The Aids Walk in downtown Phoenix kicked off this morning for its ninth annual year.
Nearly 6,000 people gathered to help raise money and awareness.
Thousands of people gathered today with hopes of breaking personal records and stigmas at the annual Aids Walk in downtown Phoenix.
“You don't have to be gay to get this disease,” says Barb Eldridge. “This isn't what it's all about, you know? The young people with drugs and unprotected sex…they need to be tested. We need to do more education in the schools.”
Barb Eldridge's 36-year-old son died of HIV in 2004, just one month after learning about his diagnoses.
“He was unaware that he was HIV Positive, he got sick and by then it was too late,” says Eldridge. “I made him a silent promise from my heart that I would try and make a difference.”
Now barb is voicing the importance of early detection.
“He'd been tested in the past, but for some reason or other he wasn't getting tested in the last year or so and I think that's what happened. Had he gotten tested sooner he would probably still be here with us.”
Erin Dolby, former Miss Arizona, was at the walk with her husband and 9-month-old baby girl, wearing a red shirt -- showing she's a fighter.
“I competed in Miss America in 1997 and after my journey with that was over I fell into the grips of a pretty bad addiction,” said Dolby.
After nearly 13 years of addiction, she got sober and while in treatment she learned she was HIV positive.
“After hearing that diagnoses told me that I had a voice, being Miss Arizona, that I could make a difference. It can happen to everybody. I mean this is what it looks like today we have a huge spike in our elderly community and in our heterosexual community.”
Each person here was working to help raise money to find a cure and spread the message of protection, early testing…plus shedding light on what it really means to be HIV positive.
“It's OK to talk about it and the quicker you get connected to care, the healthier you will be and that you can still have babies that are healthy and live a very normal life.”