In Where to NYXT, we suggest places and activities that you can engage and make a difference with. In this edition, we talked with David Hovey from The Center and manager of their national ride Cycle for the Cause.
NYXT: What is Cycle for the Cause?
David Hovey: Cycle for the Cause is a fully supported, three day, 275-mile HIV/AIDS benefit bike ride that extends from Boston to NYC. It raises funds—over $14 million since 1995—to enable the continuation and expansion of The Center’s HIV prevention and support services.
Nearly 500 people typically participate in the Ride each year, and participation has been growing steadily over the last few years. We expect this year to be our biggest Ride yet!
NYXT: How can people participate?
David Hovey: There are a ton of ways for people to take part. This is an experience that’s great for people of all skills and experience levels, because we have a strong support system prior to as well as during the Ride that includes everything from physical training to assistance with fundraising.
People can ride their bikes with us, or they can volunteer along the route as crew members by helping to set up the course, staff snack and medical stations for riders, drive sweep vans and more. It’s also possible for supporters to join our effort from home as virtual riders by pledging to ride a certain number of miles on their own or on a stationary bike.
And finally, if people aren’t able to participate in the actual riding or fundraising, they are still most welcome to join Red Party, our closing ceremony to welcome all our riders home and celebrate the conclusion of the Ride. It will take place during the afternoon of September 22nd, here at The Center on West 13th Street in Manhattan.
NYXT: How did Cycle for the Cause originate? Was it in collaboration with other organizations? If so, which ones?
David Hovey: Cycle for the Cause originated as the Northeast AIDS Ride back in 1995, and has supported The Center’s HIV/AIDS programming ever since. The Center as a whole was founded in direct response to the AIDS crisis in 1983. As our organization grew, we sought out new ways that our community could participate in fighting the disease, and we also wanted to raise awareness beyond our hyperlocal community. The Ride was a perfect way to do that, because it offered a concrete, empowering goal to strive for in the face of an epidemic that often felt overwhelming, while also expanding the conversation about AIDS to other towns, cities and states.
NYXT: What is the significance of making the ride from Boston to NYC?
David Hovey: The Ride’s 275-mile course makes the experience both challenging and rewarding. When hundreds of people all commit to the huge physical effort of riding that long distance over three days together, it creates a spirit of camaraderie and is really valuable for building community. Everyone is pushing themselves to their limits for a cause they feel passionate about, and they’re surrounded by others with exactly the same motivation. This atmosphere builds relationships that keep people coming back to the Ride for many years in a row.
There have been many different routes throughout Cycle for the Cause’s 25-year history, but that motivating, unifying aspect of the route has always remained a constant.
NYXT: Why is it important to do these types of campaigns? What is their impact on the community?
David Hovey: As long as HIV and AIDS continue to exist, our community will continue to need Cycle for the Cause and The Center’s prevention, support and education programs. Our HIV/AIDS programs combat misinformation and stigma, and break down barriers to accessing treatment and care. Cycle for the Cause makes all this possible.
For example, about 15% of Americans infected with HIV are unaware that they have the virus. Thanks to funds raised during Cycle for the Cause, we have been able to expand our free HIV testing from one to five days per week. Maximizing opportunities for people to get tested is so important for preventing transmission to others and ensuring those infected get treatment ASAP.
NYXT: Tell us more about your HIV campaigning. What are some of the major accomplishments of your campaign? What are your upcoming goals?
David Hovey: Our goal is to end HIV and AIDS once and for all. And we’re seeing progress; new diagnoses of HIV in New York are decreasing, and the number of people living with HIV who are undetectable is also increasing. (If someone is undetectable, it means they pose effectively zero risk of transmitting the disease.)
At the same time, people with HIV continue to report high levels of stigma related to having the disease, and new diagnoses are actually increasing for some groups, such as Latino men. Our work is not done, and we are committed to fighting until HIV and AIDS are no more.
NYXT: What are some challenges that The Center had this year? What do you ultimately want to see the organization become in the future?
David Hovey: One of our biggest challenges is figuring out how to grow Cycle for the Cause in terms of the number of individuals who sign up to participate. The number of participants we have is directly related to the fundraising potential of the event. The difficulty is that our Ride requires us to use hotels along the route, and we’re finding that many of them cannot go beyond the 500-600 person group size we have just about reached and want to exceed. So, we’re trying to get creative about ways we can grow, which is part of why we created the option for folks to participate as virtual riders.
Expanding the Ride beyond that 500-600 person threshold would ultimately improve our ability to reach new supporters of The Center’s work, and show communities in New York and beyond why our work is so important and worth getting involved in. That’s why the size of the Ride is something we’re really focused on right now.
NYXT: Would you like to add anything else?
David Hovey: It’s important to understand that the activism and advocacy Cycle for the Cause allows our participants to engage in is truly invaluable. It puts a spotlight on how far we’ve come in the fight to end AIDS, as well as how much work there is left to do.
We often hear people say things like, “HIV is still an issue? It’s 2019!” It’s just not on most people’s radar these days. By keeping this Ride alive and growing, we’re able to spark conversations that otherwise might not happen and bring back the awareness that’s lacking, especially in more rural communities where HIV is spreading and treatment access is more limited. It’s hard to ignore 500 people riding through the countryside—imagine what we could do with a thousand people or more.
Subscribe to the NYXT newsletter
Learn about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and new organizations looking for your help.