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AIDS walk draws 4,500, raises $375,000: Victims remembered, honored during fundraiser for AIDS-related organizations




 

Glee Lehmbeck, 59, walked while remembering the loving spirit of her 35-year-old brother who died of AIDS more than two decades ago.

Lehmbeck was one of about 4,500 people who participated in the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's 11th annual run and walk at Soldier Field.

For Lehmbeck, who has recently decided to quit smoking and exercise more, the 3.1-mile course was not easy. But she said the hard work was worth it if it calls attention to the illness that killed her brother.

"Nobody talked about it in '89" when her brother died, Lehmbeck said. "We've come a long way, but we can go farther."

She could feel her brother's presence. "As I was running, I knew he was looking down on me. I couldn't have run it without him," she said.

More than 20 years later, Lehmbeck said she still misses her brother, a man she describes as her "best friend."

The event raised about $375,000, not including corporate sponsorships, according to the foundation. The money will benefit about 35 organizations that tackle HIV and AIDS issues in the Chicago area.

There are about 25,000 people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in the Chicago area, according to the foundation.

Many at the run talked about how much medical treatment for AIDS and public perception of the disease has changed over the past few decades.

Iliana Gilliland, who has worked for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago for about 20 years, said she remembers when it was difficult to get some funeral homes to accept bodies of those who had died of AIDS.

As Amanda Stella, 28, studied the panels of the AIDS memorial quilt honoring people killed by the disease, she contemplated her own loss: Uncle Keith.

"I was only 9 (when he died), but he was the world to me," she said. "There are other great causes, but this one my heart is in."

nnix@tribune.com

Twitter @nsnix87



 


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Information in this article was accurate in September 30, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.