The Pacific Pride Foundation will host its 21st annual Heart and Sole AIDS Walk this weekend at Leadbetter Beach to raise funds for local HIV/AIDS testing and services.
Check-in for the event begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and event proceeds will go toward nurse case management, medical care, therapy, food pantries and community education in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. The PPF is a nonprofit resource center founded in 1976 to assist the HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ communities within the county.
According to PPF Executive Director David Selberg, the fundraiser accumulated over $70,000 during last year’s 10K walk and helps compensate for the decrease in financial support from the state.
“Two and a half years ago, [Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger eliminated all of $82 million in state funding for AIDS testing,” Selberg said. “Now, without state funding, we are relying on donations by our supporters and some funding from the county to keep services available. That is why this walk is very important to the Foundation.”
Selberg said the organization aims for a $10,000 increase this year to adequately address the community’s growing medical needs.
“Mid-size counties, like Santa Barbara County, were hit the hardest by the budget cuts,” Selberg said. “It’s even worse in Ventura County. All the AIDS testing organizations have shut down there. What the hell can they do without funding? And we’re definitely seeing an increase in infection, and it’s frightening.”
UCSB feminist studies professor Leila J. Rupp said the walk reminds local residents about the severity of the virus.
“It has been a serious problem that people don’t think about HIV/AIDS, especially young people,” Rupp said. “Lack of funding for education is one cause, but also, people now don’t think that HIV/AIDS is a disabling disease like they did in the past when they thought if you had AIDS you were dead, with all the medications available now.”
The PPF has cut back on several services such as free public testing throughout the county, Selberg said.
“We largely serve the working Latino population of Santa Barbara, students, gay men and others, many of [whom are] young people,” Selberg said. “Two and half years ago, we could go out in the field in Santa Maria, UCSB, SBCC and other colleges and have test days every quarter. Now we don’t have the money.”
Several events will take place before and after the charity walk according to PPF AIDS Walk Coordinator Tyson Halseth.
“Before the walk, we will be holding an art memorial where people can come and draw and write and also have arts and crafts workshops,” Halseth said. “Also, the mayor, Assemblymember Das Williams and other dignitaries will be there to speak. Afterwards, we’ll have massages, food trucks, award ceremonies for the teams that raised the most funds.”
Halseth said several university groups will participate in the fundraiser.
“The UCSB Queer Student Union will be a big part of the event,” Halseth said. “Also, I believe that some people in Residence Hall Association are organizing students in the dorms to come out and participate, so anyone interested should participate.”
There is no registration fee but walkers are encouraged to set a fundraising goal of $100. Participants can register the morning of the event or visit