- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

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. After the play ends, there will be a question-and-answer period.
In Prince George's County, our chapters will be holding symposiums, similar to [those held by] the alumnae chapters in the District. Speakers will discuss senior citizens and AIDS, women and self-esteem, peer pressure and straight talk with teens, AIDS and spirituality.
These sessions are co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Office of AIDS Research, Prince George's Community College, [Black Entertainment Television] and Johnson & Johnson. [Prince Georges] County Executive Wayne Curry is expected to greet participants and emphasize the importance of getting the information out on this critical issue.
Our Northern Virginia chapters will devote the day to hands-on projects. These are just a few activities that are planned for March 9th. Now, multiply that by 900 chapters.
Q: Why have the Deltas taken the lead in getting the word out on HIV/AIDS in the black community?
A: Our organization was founded by women who were activists and those who led change in their day, and the Deltas continue through our 89 years of existence. As we see issues affecting the growth and development of community and family, we must speak out. Therefore, as we see this issue taking over the survival of African Americans as a people we want to let the world know and the black community know that our families are at risk.
We feel education is the first part of doing something about it. When people become aware, they are ready to take action. If you don't know, you continue to roll along. We have over 900 chapters around the world and each of the chapters on March 9 will take on an initiative and do a project that is appropriate for their community.
For example, the Alpha chapter at Howard University will conduct a program at Children's Hospital. They will make activity boxes for the children and engage in activities with them over the course of the day. Epidemiologist Dr. Jill Joseph at Children's will hold a workshop to present the facts about HIV/AIDS.
Many of our chapters will work in conjunction with black clergy on that day, conducting workshops, presenting plays, volunteering hands-on to provide meals to those who are homebound as a result of the disease. Members will visit hospitals and hold and rock AIDS babies those who are abandoned. Many are hesitant to go and hold and interact with them because of unfounded fears. But these babies need to be held and rocked, too.
We're also getting petitions signed so our legislators know we are concerned. Money should be allocated in the budget somewhere for research on this issue.
We are collaborating with others in our communities the clergy, black [fraternity and sorority members] and those who are a part of the initiative and who are already working in the field trying to combat this disease.
We believe in collaboration, the more voices that are brought to this issue, the stronger the impact.
[Tomorrow] it's a day of service, but we consider it a day of enlightenment and encouragement all of the things we need to make a difference in our community so that our young people can have a future.
And, although [tomorrow] is the designated day of International Service, numerous Delta chapters nationwide and abroad currently have programs in place to address the HIV/AIDS issue. These programs will be ongoing long after March 9.


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