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Kyle Bonham knows a little bit about milestones. This year marks his fifth year of serving as co-chair of the Indiana AIDS Walk and the 25th year for LifeCare, the largest HIV medical care provider in the state.
But as milestones go, Bonham prefers to focus not just on numbers but people who are served.
This is the 24th year for the AIDS Walk, an event that gives back 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit Indiana patients. Since it’s beginning, the walk has granted about $2.8 million to HIV positive Hoosiers, said Bonham. Those funds go into the Gregory R. Powers Direct Emergency Financial Assistance (DEFA) Fund that pays for emergency expenses for Hoosiers living with HIV/AIDS who are at or below the poverty level. Last year, DEFA funds were used to cover utility payments, keep a family from becoming homeless, doctors’ visits, prescription drug refills, bus passes, and even to replace a battery-powered wheelchair.
“Because we have such a large patient population, LifeCare gets a sizeable amount of those funds,” said Bonham, adding that this year’s goal is to raise $235,000.
“In the 30 plus years we’ve known about HIV, there have been medical advances. We are able to treat patients and keep them living longer, healthier lives, but there are always other barriers to their care,” said Bonham. Those barriers include transportation to medical appointments, securing stable housing, and accessing adequate nutrition.
Funds raised from the AIDS Walk specifically support those patient needs.
“It helps us do our best work and helps patients focus on their health rather than how to get to appointments or how to put food on the table,” said Bonham.
Hundreds of Hoosiers are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) each year. Many are unaware they have been infected. LifeCare provides patients and their loved ones with comprehensive medical and support services – including free rapid HIV testing, treatments, and social work assistance. All services are confidential.
Since it opened in July of 1992, LifeCare has expanded and now serves more than 1300 clients spanning the ages of 18 to 80. Last year, IU Health LifeCare assisted 249 unduplicated HIV positive patients from funds raised by the Indiana AIDS Walk, said Bonham.
More than 1,000 people participated in last year’s walk. This year’s goal is to have 1,500 walkers. There is no registration fee for the walk – a leisurely stroll through the historic Herron Morton Neighborhood. All funds are raised through donations, including individual team pledges. For more information: www.IndianaAIDS walk.org.
“When you think that the money stays in Indiana and you think that the cost of a bus ticket is the same as a latte, every bit raised helps someone in need,” said Bonham. “For the amount spent on a cup of coffee, someone could have adequate transpiration to a doctor’s appointment.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.