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When I was younger, I made very poor life choices which allow me to relate to some of the places that the clients of Big Bend Cares
are coming from; I just happen to be one of the lucky ones to escape a non-discriminating HIV/AIDS diagnosis.
I was working at Capital Regional Medical Center
in Tallahassee when I met a nurse who was an employee with Big Bend Cares. She was visiting a patient I was taking care of in the intensive care unit who had been diagnosed with HIV but had not been compliant with his recommended medical regimen and was very sick with AIDS.
She was following up with this patient and explained the amazing services that Big Bend Cares provides in education, prevention and for those currently living with HIV/AIDS. I immediately wanted to learn more.
I discovered that they were accepting applications for a facilitator for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded program called Healthy Relationships
. I applied and was very fortunate to get the job.
I was responsible for interviewing HIV-positive clients discussing life choices that may have contributed to their diagnoses. Once this was complete, I enrolled and guided them in group sessions that included methods for learning how to better cope with this diagnosis, how to be empowered in disclosing their diagnosis and how to be more self-assured in making favorable life decisions.
When talking to the people that I interviewed, I was very candid about my own past and did not hold back. I was well aware that I could easily be sitting in their seat. All of the stories they shared with me moved me but there are a few that seemed to really call to me.
I remember one woman that moved to Tallahassee from Central Florida; her husband was a preacher and had contracted HIV from a male sexual partner. The woman became very sick and her doctor convinced her to test for HIV. She had no idea about her husband’s “other” life. We cried together.
I also remember a female client that was a recovering crack addict and alcoholic who was infected during her years of addiction. She became motivated to leave that life behind and moved to Tallahassee to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. We rejoiced together.
There are so many other stories that I carry in my heart. I couldn’t possibly begin to tell all of these clients how much their trust and willingness to share the intimate parts of their lives really inspires me. This is why I am so passionate about being a volunteer for Big Bend Cares and why I feel so strongly about the mission of this organization: “AIDS doesn’t care who you are. We do.”