Jose Portillo: AIDS Walk Team Leader

Jose (middle) with his 1999 AIDS Walk San Francisco

Jose (middle) with his 1999 AIDS Walk San Francisco

“Before doing the AIDS Walk, I didn’t really know the gay community, my community, very well,” Jose Portillo, observed. “It was before I’d come out so I hadn’t had a chance to really be a part of anything gay up to that point. The AIDS Walk became a way for me to join with and give back to the LGBTQ community.” Jose’s enthusiasm for the event has helped impel AHP to form our first AHP AIDS Walk San Francisco team!

Currently one of our team leaders, Jose began walking in 1992 when his mom co-led a team for Cigna, where she worked. “At the time, I was still a teenager and didn’t know about the devastation and death associated with AIDS. I was there to support my mom, who had had many friends die of AIDS,” Jose recalled. “I didn’t know what it all meant. But I remember the emotion of that day. Some people were singing, others were crying, and everyone was very emotional.”

He participated in the AIDS Walk for the next ten years. Even after he and his family moved away from San Francisco, he returned to San Francisco every year for the AIDS Walk. One of his fondest memories is of dancing: “It was early in the morning and everyone was still sleepy. The organizers lead us in an a pulsating dance to some very gay anthem like “We are Family” to energize the walkers—and it represented something special about the walk and the organizers’ approach to it.”

Jose’s mom went on to work for the San Francisco Giants and lead an AIDS Walk Team with them for three years, and Jose remembers when his younger brother and sister joined the team. “It was something big to do with my family. We were always encouraged to volunteer, and the AIDS Walk was something we could all do together.” For Jose, the AIDS Walk was both an important time to get together with his family and a chance to give back to the gay community. It was also a lot of fun!

Jose is excited to be coming back to the AIDS Walk to support AHP not walking for 12 years. And here at AHP, we are so excited to have him on board—as it happens, he is our Special Events Coordinator—to show us the ropes! The AIDS Walk San Francisco will take place on July 19, 2015 at 9:00 am in Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park. All of the proceeds that the walkers on our team raise will go directly to AHP for our HIV/AIDS client services. Please come out and walk with AHP this year! To join our team, visit our team page at: https://sf.aidswalk.net/ahp. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to see Jose dance . . .

Have you done the AIDS Walk before? Send us your story and a photo from an earlier event and we’ll include it in a future blog post in the months leading up to AIDS Walk San Francisco!