North meets South in cycle challenge

Great Big Cycle team at the end of their race.
Great Big Cycle team at the end of their race.
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A MUM-OF-FIVE will be using pedal power to raise money for an Aids charity.

University of Sunderland student Karen North will embark on a 545-mile gruelling charity bike ride to Essex.

The 46-year-old is raising money to replicate the AIDS Lifecycle that takes place every year from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness and money for HIV/Aids charities.

On Sunday, Karen will sit out on the Coast to Coast route to Cumbria along Hadrian’s Wall, then head to Essex via Preston, Stoke-on-Trent, Northampton and Chelmsford.

Karen decided to celebrate her graduation by raising money and awareness of the illnesses after discovering American actress Traci Dinwiddie was taking part in the Aids Lifecycle.

Karen said: “I wanted to do something special to mark the ending of my university course and something that felt like I’d made a difference.

“It was by coincidence that I started reading more about Aids Lifecycle and I found it difficult to find out more about it, so I didn’t just want to raise money, I wanted to make people sit up and notice and raise awareness.

“There is a massive stigma about the condition and I wanted to try and break down those barriers.

“In the 21st century we shouldn’t feel like we can’t talk about it. People can be born with it, and if people are aware of the condition, it can be stopped and dramatically reduced.”

As part of her campaign, Karen, who lives in Hartlepool, has been partnered with other supporters and has been in contact with people across the world, including actress Traci, who has featured in TV show Supernatural and Hollywood film The Notebook.

The university has also benefited itself from another cycle challenge which backed one of its research facilities.

A team of 10 amateurs cycled 1,100 miles from Edinbugh to London and back as part of the Great Big Cycle, which supports the Cystinosis Foundation UK.

Pharmaceutical researchers at the university’s Sciences Complex are developing life-saving drugs to treat the rare genetic condition, which causes kidney problems because the body’s ability to remove excess cystine – an amino acid – breaks down.

It eventually affects other organs and until very recently, it was rare for patients to live beyond the age of 20.

Professor Roz Anderson at the university has been heading up a team of academics, Dr Lisa Frost and Paul Hambleton, to learn more about the disease and earlier this year, they were awarded £125,000 by the foundation to fund the next stage of research.

To sponsor Karen’s ride, visit www.tofighthiv.org/goto/karennorth. A donation can be given to the Great Big Cycle via www.justgiving.com/greatbigcycle.