LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – Saturday was the 29th annual Lexington AIDS Walk, hosted by AVOL, and the first time for supporters to come back together after a two-year hiatus, due to the pandemic.

AVOL is a state-wide organization that connects communities with resources such as HIV testing.

The fundraiser raised more than $45,00 dollars, exceeding its goal. The money is going towards many things, including efforts to hopefully eradicate the disease one day, once and for all.

The event started at Carnegie Park before taking to the streets of downtown Lexington.

Jon Parker, AVOL Executive Director, said that HIV and AIDS have come a long way, but there are still key issues that need to be tackled.

“We have quite a few people living in Lexington and Central Kentucky are living with HIV, many of them you would never know because you sit next to them at church or at work, and you just don’t know,” Parker said.

According to HIV.gov, there are 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV, and 13-percent of them don’t know it and need testing. One AVOL prevention specialist said that because of that, testing is the key to being safe.

“What matters is that you know what your status is. If you don’t know that you have the virus, you don’t have to worry about it, but if you don’t know you have it, and you have it, it’s going to kill you,” Andres Cruz, AVOL Prevention Specialist said.

One participant walking down Broadway, Shannon Ashley, said this is his third time walking with Lexington AIDS Walk.

“I’m very involved in the community, and this one of the things they do every year, and I like to be out helping them supporting them in any way I can,” Ashley said.

AVOL said its been on the front lines for over 30 years trying to make more resources available to the community to access HIV testing.

“You have to go where populations are, where vulnerable populations are, so the testing we do go neighborhoods, community centers, outreach events,” Cruz said.

The 2022 AIDS Walk is not only a symbol of the mission to end HIV and AIDS, but also a reminder to not neglect those who are struggling to find more help.

“But the folks we see mostly are those who live with HIV who are lower-income who have very limited resources, and that is really where our work comes in because we believe housing is healthcare and when you have a roof over your head, you can really focus on getting well,” Parker said. “A lot of people don’t have that roof over their head and we want to help them achieve that.”

HIV and AIDS testing is free at AVOL, and AVOL said it can also come to wherever the patient is. All testing is private, confidential, and only takes under a minute.

For more information, visit AVOL Kentucky (avolky.org).