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Thousands Set To Step Off Sunday For AIDS Walk New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Thousands of people on Sunday will take part in the 2013 AIDS Walk New York, to raise money for awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The walk is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and 40 other AIDS-related causes, CBS 2's Cindy Hsu reported Saturday

Since the first walk in 1986, the AIDS Walk has inspired nearly 890,000 people to participate and millions more to donate. The walk has raised more than $128 million in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

And when the walk started, organizers told CBS 2 on Saturday, AIDS awareness was hardly what it is today.

"In 1986, about 6,000 very visionary people from throughout the Tri-State Area came together to launch a strong and compassionate response to the AIDS epidemic at a time when government and the media were doing very little to help, and over the decades it has proven to be a key source of support for GMHC and New York City's fight against AIDS," said AIDS Walk creator and producer Craig Miller.

Miller said the AIDS Walk mission is just as important as ever, and the walk on Sunday will be a strong show of support.

"It's going to be a wonderful event full of music, and fabulous people and community leaders, and tremendous spirit and determination to support GMHC, and to make sure that the New York City area continues to have the resources needed to combat this epidemic," Miller said.

Nancy Mahon, executive director of the M*A*C AIDS fund, said the science is now in place to end the epidemic. But that is not enough.

"What we don't have, honestly, are people having tough conversations with themselves, and with their kids, and with their nieces and nephews to really practice safer sex and prevent HIV, and we also need more money. We need more money for drugs and we need more money for treatment, but the good news, I think, is that if we all hold hands as a global community, and we do things like the AIDS Walk, and we talk to ourselves and protect ourselves, we can end the epidemic," Mahon said. "President Obama has set that as a goal, and we're getting there."

And while AIDS might not so often mean helplessly watching your good friends fall ill and pass away as it did in the 1980s, this does not mean the crisis is over, Mahon said.

"I think the biggest misconception is that AIDS is over. If you look at the numbers just here in the United States, we have 55,000 people who are infected with HIV, which basically means a lifetime of medication. And those medications are tough to take. I have many good friends who are no those medications. They've gotten better. There's fewer that you have to take. But it's essentially like being on chemotherapy for the rest of your life," Mahon said.

The end of the epidemic all depends on people's will, Miller said.

"The end of this epidemic is within our reach. We truly can give rise to the first AIDS-free generation in decades if we join together and take the steps, and raise the funds needed," Miller said.

CBS 2 is a proud sponsor of the AIDS Walk New York, and CBS 2's Vanessa Murdock will be there on the CBS 2 News Sunday morning.

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