A lot has changed in the last 27 years since the first AIDS Walk Wisconsin. The AIDS epidemic was still relatively new, and people around the country were being ravaged by the disease. Since then, more effective treatments have made HIV/AIDS much more manageable.
Still, the number of infected people continues to rise. This year the CDC reports more than 1.2 million people are living with the disease.
The annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin & 5k Run is hoping to raise money and awareness about the continuing epidemic.
This year’s honorary chair is stage and film actor, Taye Diggs. Diggs is perhaps best known for his role as Benny in Rent, in both the original Broadway and film productions. The show features a group of young people living in New York, some of whom have AIDS.
Diggs says his involvement with Rent is part of what inspired him to become involved with this cause, but his life was affected by the epidemic long before that. "My mother was in the theater community and she had some close friends get taken from AIDS/HIV," he says.
"So I've been, you know, in the mix for quite some time," he says. "Unfortunately, like many people, I was not 'in the know,' in that people are still struggling with this disease as far as cost and being able to afford the medicine, even though we've come such a long way from the days where, you couldn't avoid hearing of somebody being taken."
Diggs says the cause is near and dear to his heart, not just because of the many people he's known who have been affected by the disease, but because he's a father. "With maturity comes wisdom, and I care more about what's going around me as opposed to what's going on with me," he says. "That's one of the benefits of being a parent and getting a little bit older."
Taye Diggs will be in Milwaukee for the 27th Annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin & 5k Run, Saturday, October 1.