Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 --- 10:40 p.m.
Nearly 100 cyclists are gearing up for the 11th annual Wis. AIDS Ride-- a 300-mile, four-day-long bike ride to benefit the AIDS Network. The opening ceremony begins at 7 a.m. Thursday. For one Madison rider, he's pedaling for a very personal reason.
Throughout his life, Scott Foval has been to a lot of funerals. He's lost around 50 people he cared about to AIDS, and yet, he says much of the world, didn't seem to care.
"The stigma of HIV and AIDS is something that within the first couple years, I felt that I really needed to become part of the solution to get rid of that," Foval said.
Foval was diagnosed with HIV nine years ago, and has made it his mission ever since, to teach tolerance and educate others about the condition.
"So I was writing a blog for the Huffington Post at the time, and in my blog, I made a point to come out on World AIDS Day to kind of make a statement that you don't have to live in the shadows," he said.
Now the regional political coordinator for a liberal nonprofit, he's a first-time Act 11 rider, but a long-time cyclist and public voice--already raising thousands for the cause.
"It's my way to give back as an HIV-positive rider," Foval said. "To give back to the organization that has helped me so well over the last few years."
The AIDS Network serves patients throughout south central Wis., providing everything from case management, to access to doctors, housing and testing. Act 11 is the largest fundraiser for the AIDS Network--around $250,000 is donated. But with roughly 250 new cases in the state each year, the support is much-needed.
"The funding climate and the political climate is constantly changing, so any federal or state funding is never a guarantee," said Ellen Hebron, the chair of the Volunteer Steering Committee for the Wis. AIDS Ride. "So any money we can bring in aside from that is super helpful."
Perhaps most helpful, are the riders who show up, putting a face to the numbers, and showing the rest of the world, people who are HIV-positive are people, too.
"I like to use the term, 'living positively'," Foval said. "Having HIV and AIDS is not a death sentence anymore. With the new treatments that are available, as well as the preventable treatments that are available, it's a new day for people living positively."