A group of about 100 students stopped traffic Saturday morning, refusing to yield to ignorance on the road of awareness. The Florida A&M University chapter of the NAACP presented its annual Walk-Aware to raise consciousness about HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Jonathan Quarles, a second-year business administration student from Flint, Mich., said that the event was the brainchild of the NAACP, but hadsufficient help from other organizations. He said that the event had a different significance than a march.
“This walk was an effort to show and symbolize that we are concerned and that we are a people who are aware,” he said. “A lot of people who have AIDS cannot walk. So we should remember not to take that for granted.
Quarles said although he was pleased with the attendance, larger numbers of participation can help attain the ultimate goal-action.
“(The goal is) not for people to be selfish with the information but to go out within the community and educate people.
The walk began at the Leon County Civic Center and ended at FAMU’s intramural field with a program featuring performances by members of the Beta Alpha chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the Beta Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and the Alpha Eta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fratertnity Inc. But the highlight was keynote speaker Ed Sims.
Sims, a social work student from Marianna, was diagnosed with HIV in 1989 after contracting the virus from a lover. Doctors told him that he shouldn’t have lived past 1995. Thirteen years later he stands as living testament tothe reality of AIDS.
Sims suffered a stroke, partial paralysis and nerve damage because of complications from AIDS.
And although Sims lost his vision, he did not lose sight of becoming a lesson to others.
“I love to educate as I go,” he said. “I am a face for the disease.”
Sims also gave startling statistics about AIDS in Florida alone.
“AIDS is here,” he said. “We’re still dying. We shouldn’t be dying.”