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AIDS Walk Orange County Focuses on Reaching Youth With HIV Education and Prevention Messaging

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IRVINE, Calif., May 10, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The most recent statistics from the Orange County Health Care Agency paint a dramatic picture about HIV/AIDS and the youth of Orange County. For the year ending December 31, 2012, the most recent statistics available, more than 73% of new HIV infections occurred in people aged 39 or below. And 60% of those cases were in people under 30.

One of the best ways to combat this problem is awareness and education. And there's no better way to make people aware of HIV/AIDS in our community than to have held our 27th annual AIDS Walk Orange County at the Disneyland® Resort, a place visited by millions of people, young and old, every year. It's the highest visibility venue in our area and lends immeasurable credence and respect to our cause.

On Saturday, May 4, at 6:45 am, a countdown and confetti blast at the hub of Main Street, USA, launched the 27th annual AIDS Walk Orange County. Managed by AIDS Services Foundation Orange County (ASF) since 1996, this is the third year that the walk has been presented at the Disneyland Resort®. Proceeds from the walk, Orange County's largest and longest-running AIDS-related fund raiser, will benefit ASF and 6 other recipient agencies: The Center Orange County, Mercy House, Orange County Cornerstone Outreach, Public Law Center, Shanti Orange County, and Straight Talk Clinic, Inc.

Of the over 2,000 walkers who registered for the walk, more than 1,450 walked on the day of the event to show their support for the men, women, and children of Orange County affected by HIV/AIDS. AIDS Walk hopes that the final tally on the event, which doesn't close its books until the end of June, will bring fund raising totals to $450,000.

The walk took a route through what may be some new and unfamiliar parts of the resort. Leading off from the hub at the end of Main Street, USA, the walk wound its way through Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland before heading back down Main Street, USA, and heading across the esplanade toward the main entrance of Disney California Adventure park. Walkers then proceeded down the new Buena Vista Street and through the all-new, neon-clad Radiator Springs! Pacific Pier welcomed walkers next as they were serenaded by our great friends from Men Alive: The Orange County Gay Men's Chorus! The walk ended with a festival of recipient agencies and sponsors in the Downtown Disney District.

Through educational signage along the route, walkers experienced the history of HIV in Orange County and the US, and learned facts about the current state of the disease. And to make sure they had a good time, favorite Disney characters were along the route to greet and cheer walkers on their way!

"We hope that families, community and corporate groups, and faith communities continue to participate in the walk, learn about HIV in our community, and help spread the word," says Philip Yaeger, executive director/CEO of AIDS Services Foundation. "AIDS Walk is our most visible and family-friendly awareness platform and we need to reach teens and even pre-teens with the message that HIV is still a health threat that they must protect themselves from. Families must learn to talk about AIDS together to eliminate the stigma that remains around the disease. Awareness and education are our best tools to combat the rising incidence of HIV among our youth."

In an effort to further reach those in our community who may be HIV-positive and not know it, AIDS Walk provided free, rapid HIV testing at the post-Walk festival. Testers are also counselors and educators and are able to provide those services to anyone who needs them, whether they test positive or not.

First held in 1987 at Mason Park in Irvine, the walk has taken place in various locations and raised nearly $15 million in donations to help provide services for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Orange County. ASF organizes the event with proceeds shared among several nonprofit agencies that provide services to people living in Orange County that are impacted by the disease.

ASF is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985. Annually, the agency assists more than 1,500 men, women, and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Among the services ASF provides are food, transportation, housing, emergency financial assistance, mental health counseling, HIV testing, and HIV prevention and education programs. To learn more about ASF go to www.ocasf.org. For more information about AIDS Walk visit www.aidswalkorangecounty.org.





A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=18654

CONTACT: Marc Montminy 949-809-8766 mmontminy@ocasf.orgSource:AIDS Services Foundation- PST