Annual AIDS Walk to be Held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Honors Those Killed on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17

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    NEWSLETTERS

    This weekend, people are remembering the AIDS experts who were on board Flight 17, as thousands of people are getting ready for the state's largest AIDS fundraiser. The San Francisco AIDS walk kicks off tomorrow in Golden Gate Park. NBC Bay Area’s Derek Shore reports from San Francisco with more. (Published Sunday, Jul 20, 2014)

    The annual AIDS Walk took place Sunday in Golden Gate Park--where about 20,000 people attended and more than $2 million were raised for Bay Area non-profits.

    Organizers said they dedicated this year's event to the AIDS researchers and experts that died in that fiery crash over eastern Ukraine.

    Former International AIDS Foundation President Joep Lange was one of six researchers who was on board the Malaysia flight that was shot down. The researchers were on their way to an International AIDS Conference in Australia.

    Some UCSF professors were there as well. Lange is credited in broadening the reach of antiretroviral drugs--life saving drugs in third world countries.

    Organizers were making comments and remembering the immense loss.

    "There will be tributes to the people that we've lost," Project Inform spokesman Dana Van Gorder said. "Mayor Lee will be joining us tomorrow to share his condolences about what's happened, and we will be encouraging all of our participants to go to the National AIDS Memorial Grove."

    During the event, organizers said the walk is always bittersweet because it is a time to both celebrate advances made against the disease, as well as remember all those who have been killed by AIDS.

    But this year was more difficult than most.

    “What a bitter irony that people working to do such good would be lost to such a gratuitous act of hate and violence," Gorder said. "We dedicate our efforts today to them, to their enormous contributions to ending this epidemic and vision of social justice they sought to advance.”

    The 6.2 mile long route was entirely within the park and caused the north and south entrances of the park to be closed until 2 p.m.

    Events began with photography sessions at 8:35 a.m. and concluded with a post walk concert at 12:30 p.m.

    There was also a moment of silence for the those killed on MH17.

    Many credit Lange with lowering infection rates in areas that previously were seeing a huge steady increase in new HIV infections.

    Over the past 28 years, the walk has raised nearly $82 million in San Francisco alone to fight HIV and AIDS.

    AIDS walk is the largest AIDS fundraiser, and this year, it benefited Project Inform and others to help stop new infections.

    More information can be found at www.aidswalk.net.