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by Jessica Carreras
Lateshia Dowell may be fresh out of college, but the 22-year-old Oak Park resident is ready to make a difference. Recently, Dowell joined the team of Steppin’ Out as the walk team coordinator, where she hopes to get more people involved in this year’s AIDS Walk Detroit, as well as make an impact on AIDS.
1) How did you get involved with Steppin’ Out?
I had been unemployed for a few months and had become an avid user of craigslist.org in hopes of finding a part-time position. One day while searching the website, I came across an ad for a walk team coordinator for AIDS Walk Detroit and immediately I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to help, even if in a small way, promote awareness for an epidemic that I am personally connected to.
2) What exactly is your job as the walk team coordinator?
As a walk team coordinator, I am responsible for making sure the event has participants to be involved in the walk. I reach out to the local high schools to get them involved in our Metro Detroit High School Challenge, as well as try to get those who had formed teams in years past to sign up again this year.
This year, I’m also trying to get more businesses involved by encouraging them to form teams of their own or raise funds for the cause.
3) Why is HIV/AIDS an important issue to you?
When I was 7 years old, I lost my uncle to AIDS. At the time, I was too young to know what the disease was, but I remember the pain it caused my family.
And then in 2005, the disease hit my family for a second time when another one of my uncles found out that HIV had been eating away at his body and had reached its final stage of being full-blown AIDS. As a senior in high school, I remember staying home from school to go to the hospital and stay with my uncle because the medicine he was taking caused him to hallucinate and he would wake up afraid. I remember seeing his body thin out to a skeletal figure. This was the same uncle who, only two years ago, had beat me in a sprint to the corner.
After his death, I knew that I wanted to do something to make people more aware of HIV/AIDS, not just because it had such a personal affect on me, but because I didn’t want people to have to experience the things that I had to. Watching a loved one die from a disease that is preventable is a tough thing to do.
4) What’s your history of involvement with the LGBT community and/or the HIV/AIDS community?
This is my first experience working with the LGBT community and those of the HIV/AIDS community, other than those in my family.
5) What are you hoping to accomplish with your involvement in HIV issues?
My goal is simple: to let people know that HIV/AIDS is not just a gay man’s disease as it was once believed to be. It has no race, sex or age preference – but it’s also 100 percent preventable and I believe that promoting that message will help seize this epidemic that is taking over the world.
Get involved with Steppin’ Out’s AIDS walk – happening Sunday, Sept. 19 – at http://www.aidswalkdetroit.org.