The Fight To Eliminate Pediatric AIDS Rolls On (Literally)

In the fight to end pediatric HIV/AIDS, there’s no shortage of activists and advocates who are willing to “go the extra mile” to raise awareness -- but there aren’t many who take that saying as literally as Danny Gottleib, Steve Stenholt, and Lindsey Wanner.

On April 6, 2013, the trio will embark on a 2,400-mile, two-week race across the entire Indian subcontinent to raise money for EGPAF. And as if the journey weren’t daunting enough, there’s a catch. They’ll be traveling by rickshaw.

The “Rickshaw Run” is an annual race sponsored by UK-based company The Adventurists. This year, 70 teams will brave language barriers, monsoons, the Himalayas, and perhaps their most dangerous obstacle – Indian traffic – to raise money for their favorite charities.


The intrepid trio of Danny, Steve, and Lindsey has dubbed their team “Sitar Wars” and will chariot each other across India in a bright purple rickshaw featuring a picture of Chewbacca wailing away on a sitar. This is how the team explains the race on their website:

“Imagine climbing into a flimsy, three-wheeled vehicle that sports a rusted engine no more powerful than what you find in your average lawnmower. You have less than two weeks to drive this thing from New York City to Mexico City, you don’t speak a word of the local language, you don’t understand the rules of the road, and you know absolutely nothing about fixing a broken engine. That’s the Rickshaw Run.”

Team Sitar Wars

If you’re wondering what could possibly inspire three (seemingly) sane people to embark on this journey, don’t worry: Sitar Wars is fully aware how crazy the entire rickshaw racing concept sounds. They say that’s part of the fun.

“The Run is arguably the most difficult of The Adventurists’ adventures,” Danny said. “Somehow, I found two maniacs crazy enough to sign up for it with me!”

Lindsey admits her sense of adventure compelled her to agree to the race without thinking about it too much.  Steve says he’s simply excited about the chance to travel abroad because he’s only been to Canada (and he’s never had Indian food).

Lindsey says that no matter the outcome, the trio will learn invaluable life lessons along the way. “We’ll have to be resourceful and learn to deal with a myriad of mishaps constantly, and learn not to get so bent out of shape about things when they don’t go as planned,” she noted.

“I’m most excited about the possibility of a grand adventure, going to a country I’ve never seen, meeting lots of new people, and doing something good for the world instead of just going to work every day like I’ve been doing lately.”

The Game Plan

With less than two weeks until their journey begins, Team Sitar Wars is putting the finishing touches on the game plan for the race. In a Facebook post this week, they outlined a typical conversation about packing:

LINDSEY: Should we bring [a tow rope/bungee cords/more than one roll of duct tape/traveler's checks/toilet paper/etc.], or can we find supplies there?

DANNY/STEVE: I have no idea. Maybe?
Here’s what they do know:
“We won’t be using a GPS, because it would probably just send us off a cliff,” Lindsey said. She did, however, note happily that that Danny’s grandmother mailed him a paper map of India. “At least we don’t have to worry about our technology not functioning properly when there’s no service for miles!”

Danny said he plans to rely on his “impeccable” internal compass and “supreme” driving skills to see them safely through the trip.

“I’m obnoxiously confident about my driving abilities, so I feel good about what our rickshaw will be doing on the road,” Danny commented. ”But it’s the other things on the road – drivers, obstacles, cows, you name it – that are making me a little nervous.”

Danny added that it’s imperative for rickshaw drivers to know and respect their place on the Indian Roadway hierarchy. (He places rickshaws just behind scooters and ahead of pigs and goats).

Joining the Cause

Sitar Wars hopes to raise $2,500 to split evenly between EGPAF and the race’s designated charity, Frank Water. Frank Water is a local charity that provides clean water to over 400,000 people in rural India. 

While reading through EGPAF’s website, Danny said he was surprised to draw a connection between FRANK Water and ways to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

“A mother from Tanzania mentions needing to have access to fresh water so she can feed her child with formula rather than breast milk; this can further reduce the risk of transmission,” he noted. “Since FRANK focuses on bringing fresh water to rural areas in India, this means our two charities actually have a direct impact on one another – which is really, really awesome!”

Though their methods are unconventional, we’re excited and inspired by Danny, Lindsey and Steve’s passion for the elimination of pediatric AIDS!

If you’re inspired or simply just curious about Sitar Wars’ trek through India, this link will let you track their progress throughout the race. You can also follow their journey on their blog.

Chelsea Bailey is Communications Assistant for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.