Cyclists with HIV join forces to enter this year's Race Across America
Team4HIV Hope aims to raise awareness of condition and show that anything's possible
Three members of a four-man team competing in this year’s Race Across America (RAAM) are HIV positive and plan to use the 3,000-mile race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland, to heighten awareness of the condition and prove that those living with it can achieve whatever they set their mind to.
Called Team4HIV Hope, the plan to enter the RAAM was dreamt up by Steven Berveling, aged 52 from Sydney Australia, who says: “The decision to enter this race was not taken lightly by its members.”
He continues: “I am determined to complete it," he says. "I ride because it confirms that I am alive, and to show that HIV need not be an impediment against participating in major sports. I'm determined to live life to the fullest, even with HIV.”
Another member of the team, Don Smith from Vancouver, Canada, also aged 52, was first diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and told by his doctor to put his affairs in order since he would be likely to die within two years.
His reaction to that diagnosis was to focus on health and nutrition and keeping fit, and 25 years on he has almost a decade’s worth of competing in triathlon behind him.
Although he admits that he looks up to some athletes, Smith insists: "My personal heroes are all of the other persons living with HIV. They are my brothers and sisters who bravely live their lives in spite of the stigma that living with HIV can bring. This race is really for all of them."
The third member of the team who is living with HIV is New York City attorney Jim Williams, who says: "Although HIV is part of my life, I am not defined by and refuse to be limited by those three letters – I am much more than that.
“By competing in RAAM, I hope to show others living with HIV that it is not a barrier to sports such as cycling, and in fact, cycling is a great way to get and stay healthy."
The fourth team member, Francisco Liuzzi, also from New York City, while not HIV positive himself, is committed to helping eradicate the condition, saying: “We are all affected by HIV and AIDS.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of RAAM, as well as the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the AIDS pandemic, and all members of the team are preparing for the coast-to-coast journey with the blessing of their doctors.
There is an obvious parallel with the Professional Continental outfit Team Type 1, a number of whose riders have diabetes, and which entered a squad in the 2009 edition of RAAM, winning its category.
A statement on behalf of Team4HIV Hope adds: “They have consulted with their physicians and are rigorously training with their blessings. They are taking this race very seriously, because they know they are representing the hopes, and fears, of the millions of people around the world living with HIV.”
One rider whose absence will be keenly felt is five-time individual winner Jure Robic, killed when he was struck by a car while training in his native Slovenia last September.