13th annual AIDS walk pushes for awareness


Members of Zeta Phi Beta participate in the organization’s annual AIDS Walk-a-thon in this Sept. 25, 2005 file photo.

By David Matz

Awareness is the collective theme for Zeta Phi Beta National Sorority’s 13th annual AIDS walk. “Awareness is number one,” according to Mary Hodges, peer outreach coordinator for the Open Door Clinic from Aurora.

“The main goal of the AIDS walk is to spread awareness of HIV and AIDS,” said Sheina Dixon, senior psychology major and chairperson on Zeta Phi Beta’s committee for the AIDS walk.

The AIDS walk starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday at the Center for Black Studies. Participants walk a 5K course that ends with a banquet, donated by National Pan Hellenic Council organizations and guest speaker David Robertson in the Chandelier Room.

“This event is very important to the community and to the students in order to spread awareness to as many people as possible,” said Alicia Czachowski, health promotion specialist at NIU’s Health Enhancement office.

The Health Enhancement office will be at the AIDS walk passing out brochures and information on HIV and AIDS.

The Open Door Clinic will also pass out information on HIV and AIDS. Hodges will also offer free on-site HIV testing to anyone who’s interested, said Latisha Brandon, senior sociology major and president of Zeta Phi Beta.

The free rapid HIV test kit, offered by the Open Door Clinic, can give results in 20 minutes, Hodges said. For the past five years, Hodges has worked with the sorority and estimates five to 10 people opt to get tested at the event.

“College students have always lived in a world with HIV so they’re kind of immune to hearing about it,” Czachowski said. “We still have to remind them that HIV is here and it’s a problem. This event helps with this problem.”

Along with spreading awareness, the sorority hopes to raise $5,500 to donate to Children’s Place Association, Brandon said.

Children’s Place Association is an organization that helps children and families affected by HIV and AIDS.

Participation in the walk and the banquet is free, but in order to raise money for the organization, the sorority asks for a $6 individual donation and a $50 donation for participating student organizations or groups, Brandon said.

After the banquet, around 10 a.m., Zeta Phi Beta has arranged for motivational guest speaker David Robertson to discuss about his life struggle with AIDS.

“He actually caught AIDS in college, so he will be giving his personal testimony,” Brandon said. The sorority expects about 100 people to participate in the day’s events, but always hopes for more. Zeta Phi Beta’s goal is to attract as many people as possible, including members of the DeKalb community, in hopes of spreading awareness.

As Hodges puts it quite plainly, “Awareness is number one.”