Los Angeles Vanguard Weekly Blog

Getting to (Day) Zero

We're counting down to AIDS/LifeCycle 2018!

It's the 25th year of riding to end AIDS through AIDS/LifeCycle and its predecessor, the California AIDS Ride. For the next 25 days, ending on Orientation Day for thousands of volunteer Cyclists and Roadies and Day Zero of AIDS/LifeCycle 2018, we'll be spotlighting participants by asking them to tell us "Why I Ride."

To make a donation and learn more about AIDS/LifeCycle, click here.

Day 13

Day 13: Mandy Messinger
Los Angeles

"Every weekend as a child, my parents took our family to the same restaurant for Sunday brunch. The place was a haven for the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia, and many of the servers became close family friends. Many of them were also HIV positive. One year, my parents hired Sayeed, one of the servers, to do our gardening. Besides planting the most beautiful flowers around our home, he also planted me my very own red rose bush. The next year, Sayeed died. I was heartbroken, and my parents explained that Sayeed had died of complications related to AIDS. Every year that followed, as my rose bush grew and wound its way up the trestle outside my bedroom window, I thought of him. I ride now for the memory of Sayeed, for the people I knew from the restaurant as a child who passed, and for my friends now who are positive and fight so hard to stay healthy."

Day 14

Day 14: Cyclist Juan Carlos Ochoa
Laguna Beach, California

"I am riding because I want to and because I can. I want to continue being my daughter's hero and I want her to know she can do anything. I want to leave this world better than how I found it. I rode many years ago on the California AIDS Ride before it became AIDS/LifeCycle and I did it for a few years consecutively. Twenty years later, I want to challenge myself and create public awareness that HIV is not over and as the world evolves, so does the disease. I ride because it does not matter if I am gay or straight; we all can make a difference."

Day 16

Day 15: Roadie Madlyne Frisby
Burlington, New Jersey

"My son was diagnosed with HIV. I always had a fear of him getting hurt by homophobic and mean people. For us, this journey with HIV is far more than I could have imagined, but the strength my son shows lets me know there is a cure in sight."

Madlyne's son Vaughn will also be on AIDS/LifeCycle as a Cyclist.

Day 16

Day 16: Cyclist Klaus Ohrem
Cologne, Germany

"I am 56 and have lived with HIV for 33 years. Seeing my partner die while I held his hand is an experience I’ll never forget. I know today is better thanks to new medication, but there is still a lot to do. I realize that here in Germany we have a completely different healthcare system. There is no need for an event like AIDS/LifeCycle to raise money for the important work you do. I am proud to be a rider again this year and support you with my donations. And during the ride you start to remember all the friends and loved people you know who passed away."

Day 17

Day 17: Cyclist Holly McKinzie
San Francisco

"Because the younger generation does not see their friends die around them daily and did not experience life before PrEP and other preventative medications, the urgency around the HIV-AIDS is dwindling. As someone who is 24 and part of that generation, I want to help in the push for more education. I want to be part of a generation that believes this fight is not over and be part of a group that can help inspire others."

Day 18

Day 18: Cyclist Ken Pepper
Van Nuys, California

"This is my 21st year riding to end AIDS. My youngest brother died of HIV complications almost 10 years ago. He gave me the challenge of riding to help end AIDS. That was a good enough reason for me to try to help him and millions of other people."

Day 19

Day 19: Cyclist Eileen Haydu
Olympia, Washington

"AIDS became personal for me in 1988 when my childhood friend, Mindy Mitchell, called to tell me that her two younger brothers both had AIDS. Gregg and Dean Mitchell died exactly one month apart in 1989. Twenty-nine years later, HIV/AIDS entered my life again in a much different manner. My daughter-in-law, Jen Balkus, is a researcher at the University of Washington, and is working to develop long-acting HIV prevention methods for women. So I said yes to riding in memory of Gregg and Dean and yes to fighting this terrible disease that has taken so many loved ones from so many of us. Their father is now 96 and is very moved to have me involved in this event and to be riding in honor of his sons."

Photo: Mindly Mitchell (left) and Eileen Haydu (right)

Day 20

Day 20: Cyclist Tony Asaro
San Francisco

"In 1993, on my 16th birthday, my cousin Mark died of complications related to AIDS. I am doing AIDS/LifeCycle to honor him on the 25th anniversary of his death. Mark was so many things I aspired to be and would eventually become: a professional singer and an accomplished musical theater professional. And like me, Mark was gay. Unlike me, he never came out to our family. His silence about his sexuality was the reason I came out so soon after—just a year and a half after his death. I was determined to live my life authentically in a way he felt he could not. I do this ride for him."

Day 21

Day 21: Cyclist Marilyn Anthony
Wallingford, Connecticut

"In 2011 at the age of 50, I had been in an emotionally abusive and mentally void relationship for 12 years. My daughter, looking for her next physical challenge, signed us up for AIDS/LifeCycle as a surprise birthday gift. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was around 12 to 14 years old, but with a couple glasses of wine on board and a rude comment from the then boyfriend, I accepted. This ride helped me 'get to the other side of me.' I found my worth and I was surrounded by humanity at its best. My life after the first AIDS/LifeCycle has been golden. I can’t write a check for $10,000, but I can do my damnedest to raise it."

Day 22

Day 22: Cyclist Joseph Biddix
Sneads Ferry, North Carolina

"I'm a nurse in the U.S. Navy and didn't have any background working with HIV/AIDS when I first joined AIDS/LifeCycle in 2016. Most of my work was in post-operative care on a surgical floor in a naval hospital. However, as my involvement with AIDS/LifeCycle has continued, my involvement in HIV/AIDS education has increased so much. Sometimes I get the questions, ‘But why are you concerned about HIV in the military? Don't you guys screen for it?’ Short answer: yes, we do screen for it. Based off of 2017 data, a Sailor or Marine was diagnosed as HIV-positive every 4.3 days last year. If you factor in the Army and Air Force, there is a positive diagnosis every 1.8 days. HIV affects the military just as much as the civilian sector, and we have to remain vigilant to keep our members operationally ready."

Day 23

Day 23: Cyclist Denice Williams 
San Diego

"I ride to raise awareness of HIV and to destroy the myths that keep people of color and women from getting tested. Each year, as the epidemic continues to diminish overall, we still find that in communities of color the rates of HIV infection continues to grow, especially among African-American women. This is why I ride."

Day 24

Day 24: Cyclist Jose Huizar
Maywood, California

"In 2007 I met the love of my life, Edgar Lanuza. When he told me he was HIV positive, I didn’t care as I had the right education to be with someone with a different HIV status than mine. Sadly, he was diagnosed with Lymphatic Cancer two years later. Having the person you love die in your arms was a life-changing experience. Even though HIV was not the reason for his death, HIV marked our relationship in a big way. Let’s help to prevent future HIV infections, show support to those who live with the condition, and one day end AIDS."

Day 25

Day 25: Cyclist Lexi Hawley
Los Angeles

“I grew up in San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic. I was young, but I remember the day the AIDS Memorial Quilt came to my school. So many beautiful souls were dying and no one knew how to stop it. I ride because the fight against HIV and AIDS has come a really long way, but there’s still so much work to be done."

To make a donation and learn more about AIDS/LifeCycle, click here.

Published May 06, 2018

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