Former Tempe mayor goes the distance for AIDS research - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Former Tempe mayor goes the distance for AIDS research

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Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 4:51 pm

In no hurry to return to politics, Neil Giuliano believes he can best help the causes important to him as an advocate than an elected official.

Next month, the former Tempe mayor will go a long way — literally — for an endeavor. He is one of about 2,500 people who will ride a bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of the AIDS/LifeCycle. The week-long event is the biggest fundraiser for HIV/AIDS research, expected to raise over $12 million this year.

“Add in the organizers and volunteers, and it will be like moving a city of 3,100 people down along the coastline for a few days,” said Giuliano, who in January was named CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Participants bike between 40 and 106 miles each day, then spend the night at a designated campsite. Giuliano, who has been training since March, is near his personal goal of $20,000 in pledges.

“Facebook is amazing (for fundraising),” Giuliano said.

Giuliano, who splits his time between Tempe and San Francisco, is finishing a book about his experiences in public service, particularly after he publicly disclosed that he is gay in 1996, two years into his first term as mayor. He also does what he labeled “philanthropy design,” helping connect wealthy people with causes to donate to.

“I help people with money decide what kind of legacy they want to leave and be thoughtful about giving money instead of just writing checks,” Giuliano said. “It’s cool to help people make a lasting impact on issues they care about.”

After he came out, Giuliano made Tempe the largest city in the nation with an openly homosexual mayor. Since then, Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., and Houston have elected gays.

Although he acknowledged that his homosexuality “wasn’t much of a secret,” and that Tempe is more liberal than most of the state, Giuliano feared for his political career before his disclosure. He served for eight more years.

“As it turned out, it was liberating to be honest with everyone, which is something some elected officials can’t say about a lot of things,” Giuliano said. “I got hundreds of letters from young people, parents about it …

“My 10 years as mayor were phenomenal for me. I feel I had a good run and enjoyed the experience. But that was long enough to make a mark as a mayor. These other opportunities are a result of friendships and acquaintances I’ve made. It’s a chance to grow, do things I haven’t done before, learn new things and meet new people.”

The working title of Giuliano’s book is “The Campaign Within.” He hopes it will be published by the end of the year.

But for now, his focus is on training for the AIDS/Lifecycle, a routine consisting of long weekend rides. A recent route took him from the south side of the Golden Gate bridge, through small towns, the hills of Sausalito and finally back to his condominium. Total length: 101.4 miles.

“The way the ride works, you might be doing 15 miles at a time, but you have to get back on your bike in 15 minutes and do another 20,” Giuliano said. “Then, you have lunch and another 20. A break and another 18. It adds up, and your body has to be ready for it.”

The ride commences on June 5 — the 30th anniversary of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report detailing a virus, unseen before, that would become known as HIV.

In 2009, about 33.3 million people worldwide had HIV/AIDS, with 2.6 million new infections and 1.8 million deaths.

“Just because there has been tremendous progress with drugs and medicine, the virus is still being transmitted. AIDS is not going away,” Giuliano said.

“(But) we can end the spread of HIV and AIDS because we know what we need to do from a prevention standpoint. And when we start doing what we need to do, that’s when we’ll end HIV and AIDS in this country.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6301 or dzeiger@evtrib.com

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