After conquering the slopes, Olympic Games, and homophobia in sports. the American skier is setting his sights on raising a historic record one-million dollars for AIDS/LifeCycle and the battle to prevent HIV.
“I think that thinking HIV and AIDS is something of the past comes from a place of privilege. We feel very lucky now with Truvada [the drug used in prevention] and things like that to feel safe and feel like we’re no longer really at risk, but infection rates are still climbing, especially in poor communities,” Kenworthy, told The Advocate.
“[With] a lack of education [around HIV and AIDS] we’re seeing higher infection rates in young people,” he adds. “It’s important that we keep it in the forefront of people’s minds. It’s not something that we found a cure for yet, and I really hope that it comes, but as of now it’s something that we still need to fight for.”
Cannondale built two custom Synapses painted with the LGBTQ flag, one of which Kenworthy will be riding for the duration of the bikeathon. Its twin will be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to AIDS/LifeCycle.
Kenworthy shares affirming messages about coming out, love, and self-expression with his 1.7 million social media followers. What’s more, he’s now using his fame to combat HIV and the stigma that remains around the virus.
Part of the reason why young people (ages 13 to 24) make up nearly a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses, Kenworthy says, is because “there is a lack of education and stigma that still exists around HIV.”
Tracy Evans, ride director for AIDS/LifeCycle, couldn’t be more thrilled to have Kenworthy involved this year.
“We’re elated about Gus participating in the ride this year,” says Evans. “He has set an incredible goal of raising $1 million, and if he achieves this landmark goal, he’ll be the first person in the ride’s history to do it.”
Evans is optimistic that Kenworthy can not only reach that goal but help educate youth about the risks — and resources — around HIV. The ride’s beneficiaries, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation both provide health care, testing, and social programming for those who are at greater risk of contracting HIV, Evans says, adding, “Together, we can end AIDS.”
“As a longtime endurance cyclist and a member of the LGBT community, I’m thrilled to be able to give back to my community in such a meaningful way and to honor my friends and colleagues who are no longer with us,” Evans, who’s been ride director for the past two years, says. “Plus, I want to be part of the journey to getting down to zero: zero new infections, zero deaths, and zero stigma.”