IMG_8573

Sixty Three Days, Four Thousand Miles, One Goal: The Ride Against AIDS

By Rachel Shaheen

On June 21, Kate Pipa began the arduous journey of biking 4,000 miles from San Francisco to Boston to raise money and awareness for the fight against HIV/AIDS. Over 63 days, Pipa and six others from throughout the country courageously peddled both their feet and their knowledge of HIV/AIDS epidemic that still largely neglected by many Americans. Pipa said, “It was a great way to spend the summer, advocating on an important issue that isn’t always talked about in our country, either due to stigma or the belief that the AIDS epidemic is under control.

The trek across 14 states is a program sponsored by the organization FACE AIDS. With over 200 chapters on U.S. high school and college campuses, FACE AIDS is working to build a global movement of young leaders to fight HIV/AIDS as well as promote health equity. Through hosting events and fundraising, FACE AIDS has raised over $2 million to help support Partners in Health programs in Rwanda, which has contributed to the empowerment of over 300 HIV affected individuals in Zambia and Rwanda through employment, savings and credit, and business training.

Pipa, a recent graduate with a degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation as well as two minors in Global Social Entrepreneurship and International Affairs, has endured a variety of experiences during her time at Northeastern involving the prevalence of AIDS as a world issue. “I have been lucky enough to go to many places, ” she said, “And almost all of my international experiences have had the common, though unfortunate link of seeing the detriment HIV/AIDS can create, without access to proper treatment or knowledge.

Pipa was first exposed to the issue on the SEI Field Study Pro­gram to South Africa, a coun­try with the high­est per­cent­age of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV/AIDS; then on a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions in India, where she worked with women affected by the virus; and finally last year while she cooped at a legal rights non­profit, Inter­na­tional Bridges to Jus­tice, located in Geneva, which rec­og­nized indi­vid­u­als work­ing within the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem to com­bat HIV/AIDS. “I was shown the hor­rors of global health inequal­ity and wanted to do some­thing more. I knewFACE AIDS and Part­ners in Health were two fan­tas­tic and effec­tive orga­ni­za­tions, so when the oppor­tu­nity pre­sented itself last fall, I applied to join the 2013 team.”

On this sixth annual Ride Against AIDS, Pipa’s team set a goal to raise $100,000 that would be distributed directly to FACE AIDS and the Rwanda branch of Partners in Health. It also engaged in a multitude of educational events along the route at colleges, churches, Boys & Girls Clubs, and HIV/AIDS organizations. Pipa expressed how fortunate her team was for the opportunity to display a short video they had assembled at a full stadium at a New York Red Bull’s soccer game just before kick-off. 

Four of the teammates’ parents invited the team to lodge at their homes throughout the trip, and they otherwise stayed at campgrounds or utilized a couch surfing website where friendly individuals offered to host cyclists in their homes or yards. There was very little time for rest, however, as Pipa stated, “Whenever we were in a major city or had a rest day, we tried to put on an event or two to raise awareness of what we were doing or allowed us to fundraise.” One of the biggest challenges Pipa faced was perhaps the physical demand of the expansive journey. “Getting used to biking everyday, especially going over the Sierra Nevadas in the very beginning and eventually the Rocky Mountains took a couple weeks of soreness and getting used to biking such long distances every day, but miraculously you really do get used to it and build up your strength and endurance.”

Though a tremendous difficulty, Pipa found getting over the Rocky Mountains to also be one of her biggest accomplishments of the ride. Aside from the physical aspects, the ride fostered special friendships, allowed a group of dedicated young individuals to see new places in the U.S., and taught Pipa an important point. “There is still a lot to be done in curbing the transmission of HIV/AIDS in the world,” she said, “As well as distributing affordable treatment and wrap-around care.”

If you’d like to help Kate achieve her fundraising goal by September 30, please visit: https://secure.qgiv.com/hobnob/account/20446. 

Other ways to get involved:
• Join the FACE AIDS chapter at Northeastern.
• Keep updated with FACE AIDS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/faceaids.
• Look out for the application for the 2014 later this year/early next year.
• Sign up for the FACE AIDS Community Conference being held at Northeastern October 10 - 
October 12: https://faforms.wufoo.com/forms/face-aids-2013-communityconference/.
• To learn more about FACE Aids, contact Kate at (katepipa@gmail.com) or to reach out to FACE AIDS at NU (faceaidsnu@gmail.com).