SIREA serious about AIDS support

By Gus Bode

A fundraiser benefit for the Southern Illinois Regional Effort for AIDS brought people together for music, prizes and awareness

People rarely go to a bar to listen to statistics or to pick up a pair of condoms and a tube of lube. However, this was the scene Sunday at the Southern Illinois Regional Effort for AIDS (SIREA) benefit show.

“There was a lot of energy,” said Sarah Barton, event organizer and member of SIREA Board of Directors.


Barton said people came away from the event having learned that AIDS is present in Southern Illinois.

“I don’t think people talk about AIDS anymore,” Barton said, “They take it for granted that nothing is going to happen to them; it’s scary.”

Tim Rice, another SIREA Board of Directors member, said he was pleased that people came to an event where people talked about AIDS.

“Sometimes you worry; people get glazed over,” Rice said.

Several times during the evening, people climbed on stage and said a few words about AIDS.

“It’s an awkward thing to talk about, but they’re trying and that’s a good thing,” Rice said.

SIREA started the night with a giveaway that included 500 faux suede condom carriers which was down to less than 100 before the second band started.


Though spreading information about AIDS was a major goal of the event, the main purpose was to raise money for SIREA.

SIREA is an organization that helps people with AIDS in many different ways. It provides support to the lower 15 counties of Illinois.

The organization stresses HIV testing, offering free anonymous testing for SIU students at the Newman Center from 1 to 4 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month. The program is called “Ask Chris.”

SIREA gives Christmas gifts and school supplies for children of people with AIDS and helps maintain automobiles for people who have to drive to get treatment.

The group also maintains food banks in Jackson and Saline counties.

“[SIREA] gives them the love they need,” said Steve Tulian, SIREA board of directors member and project coordinator for the Southern Illinois HIV Consortium. “It’s good that we can do it with music,” Tulian said.

The talent on stage was handled first by Dennis Stroughmatt and Creole Stomp, followed by Bourbon Knights.

Dennis Stroughmatt and Creole Stomp provided about two hours of swinging dance tunes. The formula for their sound is due, in part, to the inclusion of an accordion and a spoon-played washboard.

The band inspired some people to get up and dance with total strangers or by themselves.

Bourbon Knights followed up and belted out some powerful Irish pub melodies, thanks to the 11 members on stage and up to five people at a time on the microphones.

Barton said that 25 to 30 area businesses made donations for the raffle, some with multiple donations. Raffle prizes included a one-hour massage, multiple sock monkeys, and a $100 vase.

Though Barton was pleased the raffle drew a lot of support, it was the spread of the evening’s message that she was happiest about.

“Even to have someone mention it after the fact is pretty important,” Barton said.

Reporter Evan Rau can be reached at [email protected]