Cyclists hit the road for kids with HIV
EAGLE COUNTY – Responsibility can be incredibly motivating.Responsibility is what Linda Guerrette expects to draw from when fatigue begins to set in during her leg of the Race Across America cycling race next month. After all, she’s not doing it just for the exercise. She and the three other women who make up the Border to Border Divas cycling team hope to raise awareness and money for pediatric HIV research.”You think about all of those people you are helping,” she said. “It really makes a difference.”The Divas, as they are called, are the ambassadors of the Border to Border USA non-profit organization. The nonprofit was created in 2001 by local resident Joel Fritz, who was inspired to create the organization after a close family member was diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Fritz decided to focus the fund-raising efforts on children who are HIV-positive because they have no voice in the effort to cure AIDS, he said. “There is no money invested in pediatric HIV care,” Fritz said. The goal
Fritz and the Divas hope to raise $100,000 for Border to Border, enough to fund a pediatric AIDS research project, he said. The group tries to raise money through cocktail parties and coin collection boxes. But the primary way they raise awareness is by riding in the annual Race Across America, which begins June 21. All teams must finish by noon July 1. Training for the 3,000-mile ride requires discipline, Guerrette said. She and the three other cyclists – Wendy Lyall, Deb Decrausaz and Kerry White – have to balance the hours of daily physical conditioning required to finish the race with everyday demands like a job and family, she said. Guerrette, who is a ski instructor and a graphic designer, has been preparing for months. She gets out of bed before work and rides on a stationary training bike in her garage for a few hours. After work, it’s back out to the garage for another ride. The county’s wet spring has made it difficult to train outside. The team traveled southwest to Delta County several weeks ago for a training camp. The weather was more cooperative there and it also allowed the team to practice the logistical part of the race, Fritz said.It takes more than just four determined women to finish the Race Across America. There is a support crew of 10 that prepares meals, drives the RV the resting cyclists sleep in and drives the vehicles that must escort each cyclist during their shift. Two vehicles are required at night-time to provide enough light for the cyclist to see. But following a cyclist while driving a car isn’t as easy as it seems.”That’s the cardinal rule – don’t hit the rider,” Fritz said, the leader of the support crew.Last year, the Border Divas finished the race in just under seven days – six days, 23 hours and 15 minutes, to be exact. They hope to do as well or better this year.
The challengePatients who have been diagnosed HIV-positive face a lifetime of possible medical complications and costly, daily medicine. It can be more complicated for children, said Dr. Betsy McFarland, with Children’s Hospital in Denver.”Pediatric HIV has a lot of unique aspects to it,” she said. “Although we can use a lot of the same drugs that are developed for adults, we need to know what doses are appropriate. Their metabolisms aren’t the same as adults.”New medicines have extended the lives of HIV-positive patients, who, because of the disease, cannot fight off infection like healthy humans can. But those medications can also cause serious side effects, such as heart attacks and coronary artery disease. The same could be happening to children, McFarland said. “I don’t know if they are going to have heart attacks in their 20s,” she said. The recent successes in treatment of HIV has caused complacency, McFarland said. That in turn, has had negative consequences.”As we’ve been successful with making it less of a disease that causes death immediately and more of a chronic illness, there has been some loss of interest, and that actually has fueled some increases in infection rates,” she said.
Federal funding for pediatric HIV research in America has taken a big hit, too, McFarland added.”There’s been a big swing to more and more international research, which is appropriate,” she said. “But there still is a problem domestically. The approach that they’ve taken is really going to hurt the ability to provide and improve the care for kids in the U.S.”The prevalence of HIV and AIDS, and the complications of treating it, is worse in other parts of the world, McFarland said. But without adequate funding to help prevent and treat the disease here, those problems will spread to the U.S., she said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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