Race intended to raise AIDS funds, awareness

`Duathlon,' hike proceeds will help health programs

Carroll County

August 20, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Bernice Culver, case manager with the Carroll County Health Department's HIV/AIDS program, rattles off the startling statistics.

"In the next six years ... the number of HIV cases are going to double in the world. It has taken 20 years for 45 million to be infected; it's going to take less than six years for us to double that number," she said. "By year 2050, they predict there will be close to half a billion people infected worldwide."

Today, there are 130 to 140 diagnosed cases of HIV in the county, Culver said, "but there are probably that many more out there that are undiagnosed. Our infection rate [in Carroll County] is probably 1 in 1,200 people."

These numbers are at the root of an effort to raise awareness about AIDS and HIV in the county, and they have prompted the Health Department and several local businesses to sponsor what they are calling an "off-road duathlon" and hike Sept. 19 at the Hashawha Environmental Center in Westminster.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Carroll County AIDS Fund, which was created about 10 years ago with private donations and is supported solely by individual contributions. The Health Department uses the fund to promote awareness about the disease, and to provide free HIV testing and medical care to residents with HIV and AIDS.

"There's not a lot of money in the fund. ... With additional funds, we'd be able to meet more of the needs of our clients and do more outreach," Culver said.

The event, called the Green Gecko, has two components. The race will feature a 2 1/2 -mile trail run, followed by a seven-mile mountain bike ride, and another 2 1/2 -mile trail run. The noncompetitive hike will cover a 2 1/2 -mile trail.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and top three female finishers in the race. All race and hike participants will have their names entered in a drawing for more than $1,000 worth of prizes donated by event sponsors.

The benefit was the brainchild of Liberty Bike Shop co-owners Bruce Culver, son of the Health Department's Bernice Culver, and his wife, Robin.

Event `a natural fit'

Bruce Culver said that he and his wife, who usually promote cycling races for their business, decided this year to do something for charity.

"Knowing my mother's passion for what she does, it was a natural fit" to choose the AIDS fund, he said.

Bruce Culver emphasized that the race and hike are not just for athletes.

"It's a nice opportunity for anybody who is interested in this cause to do the cause some good," he said. "It's for everybody."

The fund's outreach efforts include offering free HIV testing, which is conducted at the Health Department as well as throughout the county at drug-rehabilitation programs, residential youth programs and college campuses.

"We're seeing more younger ones [infected with HIV], which we'd been expecting for a while," said Bernice Culver. "We felt like it was going to show up. We're seeing a lot of younger people who have come here requesting tests."

Although the local numbers may not sound high for a county with an estimated population of 163,000, Bernice Culver said she believes the threat is real.

"We have all the risk factors that could support a lot more cases of HIV," she said. "Our prevention efforts need to be fine-tuned. ... We need to find people who are infected and get them in care and educate them about how they can spread it. That's one of our strongest tools. We have to get the word out there."

Getting involved

Those who want to participate in the race or hike may register online at www.libertybike shop.com or by mail. The registration fee is $40 for the race and $15 for the hike. Each participant receives a T-shirt, a goodie bag and refreshments.

Race participants must register in advance. Mail-in registration must be postmarked by Sept. 6. Online registration closes Sept. 12. Registration for the hike may be done in advance or on the day of the event.

For information, call 410- 549-9258.

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