AIDS marathon is Sunday


Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 3:04 p.m.
New Jersey resident Richard Brodsky is a dedicated marathon runner. But at the age of 53, Brodsky has discovered something he can't outrun - his diagnosis with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
Brodsky was diagnosed as HIV-positive eight years ago. Then four years ago, he had a seizure and doctors discovered a brain tumor. They gave him two years to live.
The diagnosis just kicked him into another gear, Brodsky said in a recent telephone interview. In 2003, he started the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
In 2004, his foundation held the first AIDS marathon in Kenya, and started an orphanage for children whose parents had died of the disease.
This Sunday, as part of the events marking World AIDS Week, he will bring the second annual World AIDS Marathon to Gainesville.
The marathon route will begin in Hawthorne and end on the University of Florida campus. It's the first time in some 20 years that a marathon has been held here.
For Brodsky, the choice of Gainesville was easy.
"My wife, Jodi Slansky, graduated from the College of Journalism and two of my daughters - Hillary and Peri - attend UF," he said.
Gainesville was also home to Dr. Janet Yamamoto, a UF professor of veterinary medicine and pathobiology who has developed two vaccines to protect cats against the feline immunodeficiency virus.
Yamamoto is now on the board of directors of the Brodsky Foundation and says the marathon this weekend is important because of the awareness of HIV and AIDS that it brings.
"Just because there are drugs doesn't mean there are cures," Yamamoto said.
Brodsky, who knows that fact only too well, said the most difficult day of his life came when he had to tell his wife that he was bisexual and HIV-positive.
Currently, Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of AIDS cases reported through December, 2004, with 96,712 residents diagnosed. The state ranks second only to New York in the number of people diagnosed as HIV-positive.
Brodsky looks at a statistic that is even more overwhelming, however. Each day, around the world, 8,000 people die from AIDS. That's one person every 10 seconds.
His hope, Brodsky said, is that Yamamoto will be able to develop a vaccine that will protect people against the deadly virus.
"Until then, future generations will define the Dark Ages as the time we now live in," he said.
The Brodsky Foundation will sponsor a number of events over the next few days, including a five-kilometer fun run and a Saturday conference and art show. All are detailed online at www.worldaidsmarathon.com. According to organizers, proceeds from the marathon and fun run will go to AIDS research at UF and various AIDS and cancer charities.
Brodsky has taken the theme of World AIDS Day - "Keeping the Promise" - to heart. He'll be lined up at the starting line for Sunday's marathon, and hopes that many Gainesville residents will be there to join him.
Diane Chun can be reached at (352) 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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