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).