AIDS runners vow nothing will stop them
Participants in a gruelling relay run from Cape Reinga to Bluff will head out of Christchurch on World AIDS Day
(December 1) nursing knee and hamstring injuries but vowing to continue.
Auckland University sports science student Geoff Cooper is leading the team of eight New Zealand students in the Run for
their Lives event as a way of raising cash and awareness for communities crippled by AIDS.
"The mood in the team is such that failure is not an option, even if it means crawling to Bluff," Mr Cooper joked.
The runners left Cape Reinga on November 18 and expect to reach Bluff on December 5, covering a distance of 2,100km at a
rate of 15km per student per day. Money raised during the event will help fund World Vision initiatives to care for AIDS
orphans and vulnerable children in the developing world.
After running in the mornings they have given presentations to schools and community groups about the AIDS menace and
during a visit to parliament re- iterated their concerns to health minister Annette King.
"People have been genuinely interested in what we have had to say and want to talk to us about it," Mr Cooper said.
The runners departure from Christchurch comes in the wake of a horrifying UN report which shows more people are dying of
AIDS than ever before.
The "AIDS Epidemic Update 2003" report said 5 million people became infected with AIDS this year and 3 million died of
the disease ? the most deaths recorded in a single year.
Mr Cooper says the fact that New Zealand has so far escaped an AIDS epidemic should not lead to a false sense of
security since the epicentre of the disease has shifted away from Africa into Asia and is now reaching alarming levels
in the Pacific.
Meanwhile health authorities in New Zealand warn AIDS infections in New Zealand continue to climb and have doubled in
the South Island over the last year.
Christchurch's Community and Public Health spokesperson Chris Woods says the high rate of sexually transmitted disease
among young New Zealanders shows many are having unprotected sex putting them at risk of catching HIV.
To donate to World Vision Aids programmes
Phone: 0800 80 2000
World Vision New Zealand
Ph: 64 9 3560747; 021 488448