AIDS Walk is a walkathon fundraiser that raises money to combat the AIDS epidemic. The funds raised from AIDS Walks usually benefit a local AIDS service organization (such as Gay Men's Health Crisis, Whitman-Walker Clinic or the AIDS Project Los Angeles), which provide services and advocacy for local community residents who are infected with HIV. They are also often credited for being effective tools of public outreach, community empowerment, and education for the issues surrounding AIDS.
AIDS Walk fundraisers are a primarily American phenomenon because the United States has no nationalized healthcare system, and the services provided by local AIDS service organizations may not be otherwise accessible to people who are HIV positive.
In a typical AIDS Walk, participants walk a predetermined route (usually 5 or 10 kilometers long) through a city or town. Many AIDS Walks have team programs that encourage organizations such as churches, schools, and corporations to participate together. Many events also have opening and/or closing ceremonies which feature speeches and performances by celebrities, community leaders, and politicians.
Fundraising models vary from event to event, but most AIDS Walks encourage participants to raise money by collecting pledges from their friends, family, and co-workers. Some events have a required minimum amount or registration fee, but for many events fundraising is voluntary.
An AIDS Walk event will usually be produced with the help of volunteers. Typically, an AIDS Walk volunteer will assist on an assortment of projects. Some of these projects could include: direct mailing pieces are sent out to registrants, creating fund-raising packages, phone-banking past participants and volunteers to continue their efforts, and many other tasks as needed.
On the day of the event, volunteers can number in the thousands and might perform many different (and necessary) tasks. Volunteers might hand out refreshments to participants, cheer and direct participants along the route and throughout the AIDS Walk venue, assist lost children and other participants, assist he event, assist with communication throughout the venue, and even escort celebrities, elected leaders and other invited guests throughout the day.
On July 28, 1985, AIDS Project Los Angeles held the world's first AIDS Walk. Its organizers hoped to raise $100,000, that day, but a tide of 4,500 walkers rolled forward from the starting point at Paramount Studios, bringing in $673,000.
Community-based activism is the cornerstone of organizing an AIDS Walk event. Over the course of the epidemic, there have been many supporters of these events. Celebrities, elected leaders, corporations, religious organizations and churches, schools and universities account for some of entities that have supported AIDS Walks throughout the world.
As with many charity fundraisers, critics have often questioned where the money goes and the level of transparency.