A Chance to Mark World AIDS Day Here at Home

The Nov. 29 luncheon begins the annual fundraising and awareness for AIDS Walk Kansas City, which will soon reach its 30-year milestone.

Dr. Gail Wyatt, keynote World AIDS Day luncheon speaker

As some anniversaries arrive, we honor them, but don’t exactly celebrate. AIDS Walk Kansas City has one of those coming in April 2018, when organizers will honor the 30th year of these fundraisers.

But first, AIDS Walk will begin its annual season of fundraising Nov. 29 with an educational luncheon commemorating World AIDS Day.

The official day of awareness, which was started in 1988, is Dec. 1. It honors those living with HIV/AIDS and those whom we have lost to the illness.

This year’s World AIDS Day luncheon will be held at a new venue – the Grand Street Café. In previous years, the luncheons have sold out smaller venues. Usually, more than 200 people attend.

Michael Lintecum, event director for both World AIDS Day and AIDS Walk, said that the Grand Street Café has an event space separate from the restaurant, located at 4740 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO. That’s where they held the AIDS Walk kickoff party in January and they will hold the kickoff party again on Jan. 18, 2018.

This year, organizers also want to raise money during the event.

The AIDS Service Foundation makes such decisions about AIDS Walk events, Lintecum said. He said that the three “wonderful” co-chairs of the luncheon are Sarah Baum, Ann Isenberg and Sandy Geduldig. The president of the AIDS Service Foundation, Christopher Beal, is new this year; his predecessor was Missy Koonce.

The luncheon will feature Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., director of the UCLA Sexual Health Program and a professor in the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science. 

“I keep my ears open year-round for potential good speakers; once we locate that speaker, then we start putting it all together. I started this early last year. We found Dr. Wyatt a year ago, and she was going to come in for the 2016 lunch and she got sick the week before,” Lintecum said. 

Consequently, Lintecum said, they had to rush to find a replacement speaker for the 2016 luncheon and chose Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United. “This year, Dr. Wyatt promised me she would be here.”

Wyatt “is really a great leader,” said Lintecum. “She was working in HIV/AIDS research when it was called GRID [Gay-Related Immune Deficiency]. So that’s how far back she goes in this journey. They say she’s a very powerful speaker. She has had an incredible career.”

At the luncheon, Lintecum said, “We are going to be recognizing Dr. Joseph Brewer and Dr. Paul Jost for their 30 years of service to the HIV/AIDS community. You know, they are at St. Luke’s, and nobody in those first few years of HIV/AIDS would go near it other than these two wonderful doctors who are infectious disease doctors. They truly exhibit everything that the medical fight that we have striven for during this whole pandemic. … We are entering into the 30th year of AIDS Walk, and they have been important in the fight all these years. We are setting up AIDS Walk’s 30th anniversary thematically through World AIDS Day.”

The luncheon will also present the Mark Dreiling Award for Community Leadership to an individual who has not yet been announced.

Anthony Edwards, the musical director for entertainment at AIDS Walk, will also provide entertainment for the luncheon.

“We’re going to have a great program this year from Calvary Community Outreach Network,” Lintecum said.

AIDS Walk has been raising over a half-million dollars annually through each April’s AIDS Walk plus other events throughout the year, such as the AIDS Walk Open golf pub crawl and Mosaic. Lintecum said they raised $528,000 in 2016.

The AIDS Service Foundation board decided to end one event, the AIDS Bicycle Cruise, in 2016 because the time involved in running the bicycle ride outweighed the amount of money it raised. Instead, they have a new baseball night called “Out at the Royals.” 

“We’re going to try and build that into a much bigger event than it has been. It’s been a great event for us, but I think there is room to grow,” said Lintecum.

For more information and tickets to the World AIDS Day luncheon, call 816-931-0959 or visit www.asfkc.org.