By Greg Hernandez
Organizers of AIDS/LifeCycle, the world’s largest single event HIV/AIDS fundraiser, have put the brakes on this year’s ride due to health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The seven day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
“While we know that this is very disappointing to all of our riders and roadies, I want to assure you that we have not made this decision lightly, and we have made it in consultation with members of the AIDS/LifeCycle community,” said Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said in a video announcement related to participants on Tuesday.
This year’s ride was scheduled to take place from May 31 through June 6. The event, which raises awareness about the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and funds services such as HIV testing, prevention, care, and much more, has never been cancelled since it began in 1994.
San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Joe Hollendoner, also featured in the video announcement, said the organizations have been following the guidance of public health officials and cited serious guidance to help control the spread of coronavirus announced this week by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
“This guidance includes restrictions on gatherings, and it is unknown when these restrictions will be lifted,” Hollendoner explained.
Last year, participants raised more than $16.7 million—the highest fundraising amount in the history of the event. More than 2,200 cyclists pedaled out of Cow Palace on the 26th year of riding to end AIDS with more than 650 volunteer “roadies” supporting them during the journey.
Since 1994, when the Ride debuted as a for-profit event called California AIDS Ride, participants have raised more than $279 million.
Despite the cancellation, Jean and Hollendoner have called for fundraising to continue. This year’s participants are being asked to commit now to joining AIDS/LifeCycle 2021.
“During public health emergencies like the one we are currently experiencing, it is not uncommon for government resources—like the ones that fund our agencies—to be reallocated to the response,” Jean said. “These circumstances, especially if they are combined with the loss of millions of dollars in revenue to each of our organizations because of the cancellation of the AIDS/LifeCycle, have the potential to create a severe economic crisis for the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.”
“We’re asking you to double down on your fundraising efforts to help make sure that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center have the financial resources necessary to do our work in 2020 and 2021,” Hollendoner said. “We know that this is a lot to ask of you, but believe me, Lorri and I wouldn’t be making this ask unless the work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center depended on it.
Both the Center and the Foundation will continue to perform its life-saving HIV prevention and care work. Their expertise, developed in response to the AIDS epidemic, is being used to help the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
To learn more about AIDS/LifeCycle or to watch the video announcement regarding the ride’s cancellation, visit aidslifecycle.org.