The Women of AIDS/LifeCycle 2012: Cherie and Laura
The 11th annual AIDS/LifeCycle is fast approaching! From June 3 to June 9, 2,500 cyclists will ride their bicycles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness and funding for HIV/AIDS services at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
SheWired has compiled some inspirational tales from women who are heading out on the open road with nothing but a metal frame and two wheels to get them from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Here are Cherie and Laura, both members of Team Long Beach.
My name is Cherie Fort. I was born and raised in Long Beach, CA and I am rider #4197 in the ALC 11. I am 47 years old and had to have little coaxing to sign up for such a huge commitment as a 7-day bike ride. I ride a Trek Lexa – bought her just for this ride.
As a health-care provider since the late 80's, I have witnessed the profound devastation of living and dying with HIV/AIDS. In the early days in Long Beach (which is one of the most highly affected communities in the U.S.) there were multitudes of young men succumbing to opportunistic infections and slowly passing away in the ICU, usually from what used to be called PCP (pneumocystis carinii pneumonia)an opportunistic fungal infection of the lungs that attacks when there is little immune defense left (now called Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia). The hospital I worked in had an entire floor (respiratory floor) filled with young men suffering from Kaposi's sarcoma, which is a cancerous tumor of the connective tissue and other opportunistic infections. Those were terrifying days for the victims of the disease and the providers, as we weren't quite sure what we were dealing with, the mode of transmission, and proper treatment. During this period a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was a tragedy.
Now in 2012, millions of our friends are living long healthy lives with the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. One in 10 of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS live in California and many in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Treatment is now available for people to live long healthy lives. However, unemployment rates and the record numbers of uninsured and underinsured in Los Angeles with the addition of continued budget cuts in California, make it difficult for many to get the treatment they need. Antiretroviral treatment is costly and many go for months without the proper treatment. The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center provides the treatment that these people can no longer afford. No one should have to suffer needlessly. I ride because I can, to give back, and help my community. I ride because it is a life changing experience. I ride for life.
I joined the AIDS/LifeCycle because I can put names and faces to the words AIDS and HIV. If we don't ride there is a chance that people I love could lose their life. The ride is a massive bubble of love, it's how the world would be if everything/everyone were at peace. Complete strangers help you when you are struggling, I've had people push me up mountains and when I've gone to hug and thank them, they have thanked me in return for riding for them and their life. It's a movement, it's a protest for life, its about spreading awareness to remove the horrible stigma behind the words HIV/AIDS. It's about helping people in my community and making sure I've done something to help. I will continue to ride the 545 miles just because I am lucky enough to be able to.