As the 25th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS approaches, one St. John resident is doing his part to ensure that those living with HIV/AIDS get the treatment they need.
Luis Martinez, who many people know as a waiter and cook at The Lime Inn, will participate in this years AIDS/LifeCycle, a 585-mile bicycle trek through California, to raise money for HIV/AIDS education and critical care services.
I think its a good cause, said Martinez. I like the idea. It will be fun to go over there and be on a bicycle for seven days in a place that Ive never been.
Participants must raise a minimum of $2,500 to enter the race. Martinez, who will pay for his travel expenses out of his own pocket, has raised nearly $2,800 to donate to Life Cycle and hopes to raise more before the race on June 4 to 10.
The support Martinez has received so far has been overwhelming, he said.
I know a lot of wonderful people on St. John, and once I told them what I am doing, they were ready to help, he said. It makes me feel good.
Martinez, who does not own a bicycle, said he was grateful to a St. Thomas business owner who allowed him to rent a bike and take it off island, which is usually prohibited by the business.
I went looking for a bicycle on St. Thomas, and the cheapest one was $800, he said. I said, I dont want to buy the bicycle, because I cant use it on St. John. An employee called the owner, told him what I was doing, and the owner said I could rent the bike and take it to California.
I feel so happy to know that theres still good people out there, Martinez added.
Running, Going to Gym
Riding a bike on St. John is too dangerous, said Martinez, who is training for the race by running and going to the gym.
To ride a bicycle on St. John is very, very dangerous, he said. Im just keeping as strong as I can. I keep myself in good shape so I can do the race.
Although Martinez is not riding in anyones memory, he has had friends who have died as a result of AIDS.
I have a lot of friends that I know who have passed away from HIV, he said. I just want to see if I can do something to help, and maybe one day they can find a cure.
Martinez, who is currently the only V.I. resident signed up to participate in the LifeCycle fund raiser, has lived in the Virgin Islands with his partner, Jeff Rocha, for eight years.
People on the island love to donate to worthy causes, said Rocha. If theres ever a cause out there that can make you feel good in your heart, this is it.
Anyone interested in supporting Martinez by donating money can log on to www.aidslifecycle.org. Martinez is rider number 6543. All donations are tax deductible.
To the people who have already donated, thank you very much for your help, said Martinez.