This Sunday, at any one of five sites around New Jersey, you can help the Garden State move ever closer to ending the AIDS epidemic, and get some fresh air and a good workout in the process.

The ninth New Jersey AIDS Walk will step off at 1 p.m. May 5 in Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Newark, Ridgewood, and a new location this year, Central Park of Morris County in Morris Plains. Ray Welsh, marketing chair for the series of walks, said the idea grew out of different groups deciding to unify and concentrate fundraising in New Jersey.

Important barometers for any state in the fight against AIDS are the number of new HIV cases and the number of people living with AIDS. In the latter case especially, New Jersey's figures have been much lower in recent years.

"New Jersey has one of the best records in the country for stopping the progression from HIV to AIDS. However, we have a large number of people that we still have to take care of," he said. "We're really doing a great job. We have the availability and the tools to reduce the epidemic to below epidemic proportions for the very first time."

Welsh said that New Jersey's target for officially bringing an end to the AIDS epidemic is the year 2025, half a decade ahead of most of the rest of the country. He said each New Jersey AIDS Walk has grown in participation, bringing in between $250,000 and $400,000 across all five locations. He hopes for that same amount or more this year.

Three of the sites, Morris County, Newark and Ridgewood, are also offering 5K runs starting at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Ridgewood is a certified 5K course, so competitive runners will be able to clock and register their times.

Day-of signups will open up at all five locations at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Each of the walks also features food, local vendors, and fun, with special appearances by community leaders.

For more, go to njaidswalk.org.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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