Each year since 2002, the Pediatrics AIDS Coalition at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has organized a 26-hour Dance Marathon (DM) to raise funds, educate community members about pediatric HIV and AIDS, and acknowledge the battle of children suffering from AIDS. Zoe Filippenko, a UCLA sophomore from Montclair, Calif., will participate in the event on February 16 and 17. Along with thousands of other dancers, Filippenko will help fight HIV/AIDS by pledging to stand on her feet for 26 hours straight.
Since it began 11 years ago, DM has empowered the UCLA campus and community in the fight against pediatric AIDS and has raised a total of $3 million. DM will provide live music and appearances by activists and celebrities. Last year, DM garnered more than 3,000 supporters and $450,000 in donations. Dancers raise at least $250 each by calling on friends and family. Filippenko, a repeat participant from last year, began her fundraising efforts weeks ago, asking for donations as Christmas gifts from family members and organizing a bake sale. One of Filippenko’s friends even pledged to run 10 miles to every donor's residence to collect her or his donation.
DM proceeds go directly to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the largest pediatric AIDS foundation; the UCLA AIDS Institute; and Project Kindle, a free summer camp program for HIV-affected children. Children at risk for mother-to-child transmission are exceedingly vulnerable in utero, during childbirth, and when breast-feeding, according to the Pediatrics AIDS Coalition at UCLA. If an HIV-positive mother does not get treatment, her risk of infecting her child is greater than 30 percent. With antiretroviral medications and proper care during childbirth, doctors are able to reduce the chance of transmission from 30 percent to less than 1 percent. Progress has been made; however, more than 1,000 people continue to be infected with HIV daily because of a lack of resources.
"I really enjoy being part of the event, but it's especially important to remember the reason I'm doing it is because of the cause," Filippenko said. "Today, pediatric AIDS is close to 100 percent preventable; the beneficiaries of DM are children who are actually affected by HIV.” For more information about UCLA's Pediatrics AIDS Coalition and DM, visit www.dancemarathon.ucla.edu .