By Wakisha Bailey

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The 35th annual AIDS Walk Philly raised more money for our neighbors living with HIV AIDS. Raising awareness about HIV AIDS is more important than ever.

“I had my baby at 15-years-old, he was my best friend, and he still is my best friend,” mother Dawn Ayoung said.

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Ayoung walked on Sunday, the 10th anniversary of her son Darnell’s death.

“Twenty-two years, six months,  and two days my son was in my life,” she said, adding, “I even have the HIV ribbon.”

The 35th annual AIDS Walk Philly kicked off Sunday morning. This years theme: “Be a lifeline.”

With the event back in-person, close to a thousand people signed up to support community agencies that provide assistance to those living with HIV.

“I have friends that are part of the LGBTQ community and it plays a big part in that community,” Temple University student Ava Gipson told CBS3. “I feel it’s not talked about enough.”

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Gipson has a point; HIV Planning Philadelphia says the new infection rate in the city is three times greater than the national average.

“It’s not seen as a serious health issue anymore, and it still is,” Tim Johnson, the associate director the AIDS Fund, said.

As a reminder, a memorial quilt in honor of the lives loss in the fight against AIDS.

“We have over 20 blocks of the quilt. Each panel has been sewn by family and friends of someone’s whose passed,” Johnson said.

As the world fights one pandemic, we cannot forget the AIDS pandemic. It’s this event that brings awareness to all.

“Kevin rogers. We are walking for him. We are walking for him, he died over 20 something years ago,” Victoria Williams said.

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And the other thousands.

Wakisha Bailey