Suffolk residents unite on World AIDS Day

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

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It was a day to provide education and remember those lost to AIDS. In recognition of World AIDS Day, Suffolk residents participated in two events: The 3rd Annual AIDS Walk and the World AIDS Day event on Friday, Dec. 1.

In partnership with the Western Tidewater Health District and Suffolk Public Health, the 3rd Annual AIDS Walk kicked off at the Suffolk Health Department and Social Services and saw participants take part in a walk around Downtown Suffolk to bring awareness and honor those taken by the disease.

Lotoria Fowlkes, who serves as Delta Emergency Response Committee Chair for Suffolk Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., expressed what she hopes residents will take away from the walk as well as her take away from the event.

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“I would like to think that they would be motivated to join the cause and to ask questions and help prevent AIDS and HIV as well,” Fowlkes said. 

“World AIDS Day is showing awareness and being able to provide resources for those in our community and educating them. So, the take-away for me is education. Educating those who don’t understand and providing even more education for those that have an idea, but not 100 percent aware of what the outcome can be with AIDS and HIV and so forth.”

The event also allowed attendees to come by the Suffolk Health Department to get tested for their status. Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Minority AIDS Support Services Keisha Edwards detailed resources available for those in need.

“The first step is knowing your status, and that’s the purpose of the walk, to not only commemorate those that we have lost to HIV and AIDS but also to get people knowledgeable about getting tested and why it’s important to get tested,” Edwards said. “If you are sexually active, and a lot of people say, ‘I’m sexually active, but I am also protected,’ still, if you are sexually active, it’s important to know your status because one thing about HIV and AIDS nowadays there is care. So if they do come up positive, we want to get into treatment: treatment being having a medical case manager, making sure they’re taking their meds, making sure they become undetectable …”

Edwards further said for those not positive, prevention is still key and stressed the importance of preventive measures and other safety resources, which the Minority AIDS Support Services, Inc. (MASS) provides, along with their services, at no cost.

“It’s just a matter of being smart and being safe and knowing your status,” Edwards said.

Later on that day, the Suffolk Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. held its World AIDS Day event at 524 N. Main St., which included a candlelight vigil. Likewise, the organization collected toiletries for the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk and Bridge the Gap Outreach Center in Suffolk. Suffolk Alumnae Chapter Officer of Information and Communications Committee Chair Sharon Slaughter talked about taking part in the event.

“​​The Suffolk Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., unites annually, on World Aids Day with governments and organizations around the world to stand in solidarity to bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic, show support for people living with HIV/AIDS, those affected by AIDS/HIV and to remember those who have succumbed to AIDS/HIV,” Slaughter said. “Suffolk Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has been taking the lead in serving the community of Suffolk, VA, for over 50 years. We look forward to 50 plus more and doing the #heartwork!”

For more information, call 757-644-3595. For more information on the Suffolk Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., go to