What makes us ride

  • by edited by Cynthia Laird
  • Wednesday June 1, 2011
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Kaya Dzambic
Kaya Dzambic

The 10th annual AIDS Life/Cycle departs San Francisco this Sunday, June 5, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the start of the AIDS epidemic. The 545-mile trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles raises millions of dollars for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. The Bay Area Reporter, through SFAF, contacted several of the Life/Cycle participants about publishing their short essays on why they are taking part. These are their stories.

Kaya Dzambic, East Palo Alto

I rode AIDS/LifeCycle 9 last year in memory of my brother Samuel, who died in 2003 in Kenya. The AIDS/LifeCycle community gave me the courage to come out with my status and unlocked the stigma I allowed to stagnate my life. I hope to help thousands of people, especially within black and minority communities, to live freely and realize HIV does not define who we are but empowers us to change the course of this disease.

We are the custodians of change " open with our status. I have since started a new career in the medical field, and I'm the mother of a 10-year-old boy who supports me. Education is paramount. If we reach out, we can change the face of HIV and AIDS.

HB Eckmann, San Francisco

I am participating in my fourth and last AIDS/LifeCycle with my daughter. In December, just as I was preparing to start training for AIDS/LifeCycle 10 I suffered a stroke. I was rushed to the hospital and the first thought was, "How am I going to ride in AIDS/LifeCycle?" I even asked the neurologist how soon I could get back on my bike.

On January 23, the doctor cleared me to begin riding again and I'm thrilled to be joining all my fellow cyclists on the road this year. I believe I healed so quickly in order for my daughter and I to ride together to help others less fortunate than us. Hopefully as the years progress we as a community will be riding for a new cause because AIDS will have been conquered.

Dan Jones, Concord

My brother Mike died of AIDS in 1995. My brother was one of my very best friends. I miss him terribly. As I look around at other families I hope no one will have to suffer through this disease like my family did. Since Mike has been gone I have tried to make his death a positive thing by contributing to AIDS awareness and prevention causes. I previously rode in the California AIDS Ride in 1999 and 2000, raising more than $16,000. I walk in the AIDS Walk every year and carry a sign that says, "I Miss My Brother." I was a camp counselor for Camp Sunburst (a camp for children with HIV and AIDS). I have conducted a food drive and donated thousands of cans of food to the Diablo Valley AIDS center until it closed.

Dan Jones

This is my first AIDS/LifeCycle and I am looking forward to it. I set out to raise awareness (and money) by committing to raising the $3,000 participant fee, one dollar at a time. Yep, one dollar at a time. My big plan was to ask 3,000 people for $1, this way those 3,000 people know about the ride and the need for ongoing AIDS support.

Well, my plan has worked. In less than 10 days from the release of my homemade fundraising video on YouTube, I reached $3,500 and I am still going strong. I have received donations and support as far away as the United Kingdom, France, and all over the United States. I will help in fighting this battle because I can. I will help fight because I know what it's like to lose a brother and best friend to AIDS.

Maralina Milazzo, San Jose

I am a teacher and a stepmother, and I began riding because I wanted to set a positive example to both my son and my students of how if you put your mind to a great challenge, you can change the world a little at a time. I have lost friends over the years to HIV/AIDS, and I wanted to honor them while I inspired my young followers.

Students helped me raise the money selling rubber ducks and my son sold lemonade. Some of my former students are now looking to be riders in ALC 11. What I didn't expect is that someone close to me contracted HIV/AIDS this last year, and is now using those services for which I have been riding. This year, I am riding for and with him. We are all connected. When one of us has HIV, we all have HIV, whether we recognize it or not. Our web in life is smaller than we believe. You never know when the life you save may be that of the person you love, or even your own.

Matthew Rice, Santa Clara

Matthew Rice

We ride to celebrate the lives we are living, and to celebrate those who are no longer with us. My first friend was diagnosed with HIV when I was 18. I began doing turns helping friends with hospice care for dying boyfriends and girlfriends when I was 21. I buried my first friend lost to HIV at 22. I stopped counting when I turned 25. I started counting again last year when one of my high school students told me he had seroconverted. He is 18, and very fiercely gay in a very homophobic southern city. I will continue to celebrate his life, and support him as he learns how to celebrate each and every day.

I will be 42 when I ride out from San Francisco on June 5. I can only pray that an end to this disease can come in my lifetime. Until then, we will continue to ride and to raise funds and to support our brothers and sisters and children who struggle with this disease.

David, San Francisco

David

I am riding because I'm passionate about raising awareness. I want everyone to know that HIV/AIDS still needs urgent public attention. I was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1994. At the time, doctors couldn't find any treatment that worked for me and I nearly lost all hope. Fortunately, new medications arrived at just the right time and through the support of doctors, family, and friends my life turned around. I ride for all the friends I've lost and for the love of humanity.

Opening ceremonies for the AIDS Life/Cycle take place at 6 a.m. Sunday, June 5 at the Cow Palace; the riders and roadies will depart shortly thereafter. For more information, visit www.aidslifecycle.org.