Walking for a cure
AIDS president got involved out of personal experience

by Ian Elliot
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 01/97) - One small newspaper ad four years ago has done a lot to raise money for AIDS in Yellowknife.

The ad was posted by Robert Hay, a policy worker with the justice department. He was growing increasingly concerned about the toll he saw the disease taking on people he knew.

In the ad he asked people interested in forming a local support group to come out and many did.

"I got involved from knowing people who were affected by AIDS, both here and in Montreal, and decided to get involved," he said.

A few months later, more than 200 people took part in Yellowknife's first fundraising walk for AIDS.

That walk, which was held for the fourth time on Sunday, has become the primary vehicle AIDS Yellowknife uses to raise money for its activities each year.

Sunday's weather was cold and blustery, but Hay was pleased with the turnout -- about 200 adults, children and dogs.

"In my mind, it's primarily a statement about the kind of community Yellowknife is that you can have this many people come out on a cold day and do this," said Hay, who is now president of the AIDS Yellowknife chapter.

Hay led the walk, which made its way around the city's downtown on Sunday afternoon. He circulated through the crowd afterwards, congratulating people who raised money for the walk and leading the applause for people who won door prizes in a small ceremony held at the Elk's Hall.

This year's walk raised about $5,000 to be spent locally on publicity and support for people with the disease and their families.

The 42-year-old Hay has lived in the North since 1986 and says although the Northwest Territories only has about 30 reported cases of the disease, the real toll is higher.

He did not offer an estimate of what the true number of infected people could be, but noted that those at risk of contracting the disease may not have themselves tested or may not live near a place that offers the testing. Those factors could increase the toll the disease takes, he said.

"Regardless of the current extent of AIDS, we know it has great potential to spread in the North," he said.