DM selects AIDS group as next year’s beneficiary

Michelle Ma

After weeks of reading more than 50 beneficiary applications, Dance Marathon representatives announced Tuesday that Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative will be the primary beneficiary of DM 2006.

The organization — which aims to eliminate pediatric AIDS in Chicago — will try to involve all NU students, even those who are not directly involved with DM, said co-chairman Ben Woo.

“We wanted something we could affect the whole campus with,” said Woo, a Weinberg junior.

PACPI, a branch of Pediatric AIDS Chicago, works with Illinois hospitals and organizations to provide HIV testing for pregnant women and provide programs that offer care and treatment for pregnant women who have HIV. The organization’s goal is to make sure no infant is born with HIV.

DM executive board members are already meeting with PACPI representatives to discuss creating student internship and volunteer opportunities with the organization. PACPI representatives will also be active on campus to raise awareness about pediatric AIDS, said DM co-chairwoman Cecilia Byrne.

The small, locally based PACPI will allow for more communication between NU and the organization, she said. Cari Bocci, the organization’s liaison to DM, is an NU alumna who danced in the event and served on the executive board for two years as an undergraduate.

“They just really understand Dance Marathon very well,” said Byrne, a Weinberg junior.

This is not the first time that DM has chosen a beneficiary that deals with pediatric AIDS. In 2001 DM chose the California-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. This year’s organization focuses on prevention measures and the 2001 beneficiary deals more with patient care, Byrne said.

PACPI’s work has expanded since its creation in 2000. By June, the organization will have established “rapid testing” capabilities in all of the 134 birthing hospitals in Illinois, said Anne Statton, project director for PACPI. These tests give women an HIV-negative or -positive result within 20 minutes.

PACPI representatives have trained more than 10,000 Illinois hospital staff members to administer this test, Statton said.

Detecting the HIV disease in a mother before she gives birth can drastically reduce the chance that her child might get the disease, she said.

The organization also runs an Illinois-wide 24/7 emergency hotline that provides women with HIV immediate resources, including emergency food and shelter, Statton said.

“We don’t want a single woman to fall through the tracks,” she said. “The support of Dance Marathon and the money they raise will help ensure every woman will be covered in the state of Illinois.”

The organization also offers prenatal classes for women who have HIV and are pregnant. Funding from DM will help to develop these programs, Statton said.

“Dance Marathon money will help us transition into a permanent funding system for all these amazing programs we can’t do without,” Statton said. “Northwestern Dance Marathon is very forward-thinking in jumping on the bandwagon.”

Representatives from PACPI said they are eager to begin working with students in the fall. They hope to provide speakers on campus and make clinic and advocacy internships available for students starting Fall Quarter, said Bocci, Communication ’98.

“It is critically important to us as an organization that the campus is engaged,” she said.

Bocci said the news that PACPI would be the DM beneficiary was unforgettable.

“We were so excited,” Bocci said. “At first we were in shock, and then we jumped up and started hugging everyone.”

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]