Why I Ride: Amanda Newstetter

I have wanted to do this ride for a number of years but had a daughter at home and the timing never quite worked. This year my daughter went off to college and I realized the timing could work given my empty nest. As I sat down to put together my fundraising letter, I realized that May 2014 would mark my 30th anniversary working in the field of HIV/AIDS and this bike ride seemed like a powerful and fitting way to honor my journey. I lost hundreds of friends, colleagues and co-workers in those early years of the epidemic. I am riding to honor all those we lost, all those living with HIV or AIDS currently, and to help end AIDS in my lifetime. I have a deep well of grief that gets released and healed a bit with each ALC bicyclist I meet, each training ride I take, and each dollar that I raise.

I think I am most proud of being in the trenches from the beginning of the epidemic. I am proud that I started as a Social Worker at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in May of 1984 before there was even a test for HIV. I am proud that I was one of the first HIV test counselors giving results (33 percent positive) when the antibody test became available in 1985. I was in the first group of people to get trained by the UCSF AIDS Health Project (now Alliance Health Project) to train other providers around the state about HIV counseling and testing. I am proud that I helped Planned Parenthood in Walnut Creek, CA set up the first HIV counseling and testing program in the country in 1987. Also in 1987, I was one of the organizers of a conference for 100-plus lesbians as caregivers in the AIDS epidemic. Lastly, I was a founding member of the Women’s AIDS Network which was a group of women providers in the S.F. Bay Area that met monthly in the mid-’80s about HIV and how to better serve women.

Unfortunately, I have watched the statistics on women with HIV and AIDS go from 7 percent in the early epidemic to almost 30 percent nationally over the last 30 years. Often women are the caregivers, caring more for others and neglecting their own physical and emotional needs. This has sometimes led to late testing, worse health outcomes and death for women who didn’t seek out the medical and social support they needed so desperately. It has been mostly women who have stood up and advocated for women to get tested and treated for HIV—as well as supported—whether it was walking her through the stigma of testing and disclosure to choosing pregnancy or getting into recovery. While men may be impacted and want to help, it has more often been women helping their sisters in those times of need. It is no accident that the most powerful organizations that have helped women with HIV (e.g. W.O.R.L.D and Positive Women’s Network –USA) have been started and run by women. For better or worse, I imagine that this will always be true.

For more info on AIDS/LifeCycle, visit http://www.aidslifecycle.org,and register to ride with us in June by entering discount code: INSTINCT. If you’d like to support Amanda in her ALC efforts, visit her page here.