A cycle fundraiser for HIV/AIDS education passes through Norwich on September 16

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NORWICH – More than 350 people will take a 275-mile bike ride across the North East this weekend – including the heart of Norwich – to raise money for HIV and AIDS programmes.

The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center hold his birthday Cycling for the cause from Friday to Sunday, bicycle Massachusetts at New York generate money for HIV and AIDS education, prevention and support services. The journey will make two stops in Norwich before ending for the day in Mashantucket, a press release said.

From when you should expect to see riders to where stops are set up to how to help the cause without jumping on a bike yourself, here’s what to know .

What is the Cycle for the cause?

The ride started in 1995, with different events in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Over the duration of the event, it has raised $17 million and expects to raise more than $1 million this year alone, said Glennda Testone, executive director of the community center,

“Part of the reason we’re doing this is to physically go out into the community, and not just in New York or upstate New York, but throughout the northeast, to try to raise awareness,” said she declared. “HIV and AIDS are still a problem in this country, and we are trying to end the epidemic.”

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The ride itself has passed through Norwich at least 10 times over the years. Cyclists ride at their own pace, often in groups. Safety, difficulty of terrain and scenery determine the route.

“We pushed towards the coast,” Testone said. “It’s a bit flatter, and that ensures that we don’t overload our riders, and also enjoy some really nice scenery.”

Where are the Norwich stops?

There will be two rest areas in Norwich for runners on Friday. The first is at Red McKeon Park on Taftville-Occum Road from 11:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The second is at Howard T. Brown Memorial Park from noon to 4:30 p.m.

The Norwich Public Works Department is coordinating with the use of the Howard Brown Park Amusement Ride. The ride shouldn’t interrupt use of the park or boat ramp on Friday, as bikes are kept together forward and organizers bring food, tents and portable toilets for riders . There will be no roads closed to cyclists, but drivers should be aware of cyclists as usual, said public works director Patrick McLaughlin.

Why is the bike ride trying to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS?

Although HIV infections are decreasing, they are still widespread. About 1.189 million Americans had it in 2019, but only 87% knew they were infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the press release, part of the work the community center does with HIV and AIDS includes distributing safe sex kits and HIV prevention medications, offering sexually transmitted infection testing, referral to LGBTQ+ confirming physicians, counseling and education.

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Although the community center does not work with any organizations near Norwich, organizations it works with in Connecticut include the New Haven Pride Center, Yale University’s LGBTQ Resource Office, and the Triangle Center in Norwalk.

Tessa Cappiello, program coordinator at Reliance Health Gay Straight Alliance Norwich, said it’s a big deal that the community center runs through the heart of Norwich, as LGBTQ+ resources can be hard to come by in smaller areas.

“Resources are scarce and information isn’t as well disseminated, so it’s cool to see such close representation, even when it’s something happening,” Cappiello said.

In a climate focused on COVID-19 and monkeypox, Testone wants people to see the runners and possibly interact with them to find out how they can volunteer or donate to help stop HIV and AIDS.

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“Making sure people remember that HIV and AIDS are still here, that we don’t have a cure, and sparking that conversation is really important,” Testone said.

While HIV and AIDS don’t have the same stigma as they did in the 1980s, stigma still persists, Cappiello said.

“It still impacts a lot of people, and focusing on that is huge for us to keep moving forward,” she said.

How can you donate?

To donate to Cycle for a Cause, go to cycleforthecause.org. By donating, you can support a participating runner or team, or donate directly.

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