AIDS week kicks off

By Cara Donfrio

All week long, students will be able to gather information about AIDS after efforts by the Zeta Phi Beta sorority and the DeKalb County Health Department.

Starting today, the fifth-annual AIDS Awareness Week begins on campus and will feature various events that relate to the affliction in some way.

The week’s activities begin at DuSable Hall with an information table, which will be staffed by spokespersons who can give students details about the disease and an introduction to the events that the week will entail.

Tomorrow night, the movie “Philadelphia” will be shown at the Stevenson Multipurpose Room.

“We were looking for contemporary movies, and this is the most current movie that exemplifies HIV/AIDS,” said Natalie Conde, a senior FCNS major and member of Zeta Phi Beta.

Following the movie, there will be a discussion group. The Nation of Islam Student Association and the Zeta Phi Beta sorority will go over topics related to AIDS and discrimination.

Wednesday will bring the information table back to Cole Hall with more options available. They will be able to sign up for events such as anonymous AIDS testing and the AIDS Walk Chicago taking place in DeKalb.

The anonymous testing lasts from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room. The test is free and private for all students. Each student will receive an optional counseling session before the test.

“Most students have at least some questions,” said Gary Judd, an employee at the DeKalb County Health Department and testing administrator. “I believe that the counseling session is very important.”

The test takes five minutes or less and is completely painless.

“We used to have a blood draw, because that was the only way,” Judd said. “For the last three years, we’ve had oral testing.”

A cotton swab in the mouth is the only instrument used during the test.

“What most students don’t know is that this testing is done continuously,” Judd said. “On the second and fourth Thursdays of [every] month, we’re testing and it’s always free. [University] Health Services does testing too, but there’s a charge for it and it isn’t anonymous. But Health Services does a wonderful job.”

“There’s no way I could have it,” sophomore engineering major Gustavo Vasquez said. “I wouldn’t take the test.”

Judd stressed the importance of getting tested just to make sure.

“Most people who have AIDS once thought there was no way,” he said.

Directly following the testing will be a presentation at the HSC’s Heritage Room. Representatives from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago will cover a wide range of topics related to AIDS, focusing on current treatments for the disease.

The local AIDS Walk Chicago on Sunday will wrap up the week. Participants will meet at Central Park (between Stevenson Towers and Douglas Hall). The cost is $5 per person or $25 per organization, with proceeds going to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Registration runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the last walker able to start at 1 p.m. The walk will begin at 11:20 a.m.

Conde was enthusiastic about the event.

“We’re expecting a large turnout,” she said. “Many students know that this walk exists, but not that it’s in DeKalb. In fact, in Chicago, it’s $20 a person, so this is more convenient. We’ve got support from so many people – student organizations, local businesses – even President Peters donated money. We’re trying to target the whole community, DeKalb and Sycamore, not just the campus.”

Many students were interested in the walk, but there were some reservations.

“The $5 might be an issue,” said Erick Brenes, a freshman time arts major. “College students don’t have money.”

Judd remained excited about the week.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great organizations, such as Zeta Phi Beta. We’ve gotten so much support,” he said. “There ought to be a great turnout.”