Sorority Leader Targets AIDS 'Denial' among Blacks

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Barnes, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Staff writer Denise Barnes interviewed Gwendolyn E. Boyd, the 22nd national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Question: The Deltas have a long history of community service. What are some of the projects the sorority is currently working on?

Answer: [Tomorrow] Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. will host an International Day of Service to address HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. Our programs, which are national and international in scope, emanate from a five-point program thrust, which includes educational development, economic development, political awareness and involvement, international awareness and involvement, and physical and mental health.

We have selected the issue of HIV/AIDS since it's affecting families not only in the United States [but elsewhere]. Everyone knows how HIV/AIDS is devastating families in Africa - millions are dying and leaving children to raise themselves.

We're aware of the pandemic there, but it's also becoming increasingly dangerous for African Americans in the United States, and we're somewhat in denial of that fact. The statistics are there - we read them, but don't acknowledge them.

Therefore, African Americans continue as if this doesn't affect us at all. We need to shine the light on this [HIV/AIDS] as a major issue - we are dying and we are also leaving orphans who need to be cared for. The issue of health in the African-American community is broadbased, but HIV/AIDS is continually killing us. The Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] estimates that one in 50 African-American men and one in 60 African-American women are infected with HIV.

HIV/AIDS is now the number two cause of death among African-American men ages 25 to 44 - when they're in the prime of their life - and it's the number three cause of death among African-American women in the same age group. These statistics need to be out in our community. We can't ignore this any longer - we are not only killing a generation, we're committing genocide on ourselves. And we can do something about it. That's what Delta Sigma Theta members are saying around the world on March 9th during our International Day of Service. We can stop this.

Q: What kind of events have the Deltas planned for March 9 in our area to address the HIV/AIDS issue?

A: On Saturday, [the Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter and the Federal City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta] will host a symposium on HIV/AIDS in the black community at the Takoma Educational Center on Piney Branch Road and Dahlia Street in Northwest. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the program begins at 9:00 a.m., lasting until 1 p.m.

There will be an interesting group of speakers, who appeal to different age groups. Toni Miles-Maloney (Justine Love on WPGC, 95.5 FM) will speak to the young people. We will also have Courtney Williams, a community planner from the D.C. Office on Aging [to talk about senior citizens and HIV/AIDS].

Dr. Alyce Gullattee, the director of the Institute for Substances of Abuse and Addictions at Howard University Hospital, will talk about HIV/AIDS from the perspective of drug use. People often think that [shared] needles are the primary culprit in contracting the disease.

To talk in more general terms - from a layman's perspective - we'll have Kevin Bates, a program associate with Concerned Black Men-Washington, D.C. Chapter, who will speak about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Plus, Dr. John W. Hogan, M.D., a primary care physician who specializes in HIV-positive patients at Unity Health Care in the Upper Cardozo Health Center in Northwest, will talk about treatment and services available to HIV-positive patients.

Along with the guest speakers, the day will include a theatrical production called "Secrets," sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. The play uses humor and drama to teach the facts about HIV/AIDS. …