I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011

I have not yet been able to find the strength and time to write my first blog post and tell you more of my story. However, with the passing of World AIDS day a few days ago, I felt I must at least write something. So, I'll tell you a little about how I spent my World AIDS Day here in the States as an HIV+ RPCV....

Just before Thanksgiving, I attended a 3 day long workshop for HIV+ people. I can hardly explain the magic that happened there. In addition to all of the information and education provided, I got the chance to spend 3 whole days in the company of 15 other HIV+ people....and it was amazing! To be able to be in a group like that where each person could feel total acceptance and love...to share and talk and be themselves... to tell their stories and offer each other support. We became instant friends, and what some would consider an instant family. It was MAGIC...that's all I can say...

Well, it turned out that many of my new friends/family from that workshop were planning on volunteering and participating in a 3 day long event for World AIDS Day. As soon as I heard about it, I said "I'm in!"

Events started on Tuesday, and I literally spent a 14 hour day hanging up AIDS memorial quilts, setting up chairs and tables, designing billboards, and acting as a resource to those visiting the exhibit. At the end of the day, I even took a plunge and agreed to be interviewed by a local public radio station! The next days involved much of the same. On Thursday, I helped usher high school students through the quilt exhibit, and then had the guts to stand up in front of 100+ teenagers and tell them a bit of my story and answer this questions. It was definitely a powerful release to say the least. Following that speech I agreed to an interview with a local University Journalism student. Then we all rushed over to set up the church and candlelight walk for later that evening. We had a short but intimate candlelight walk, a beautiful memorial service at the church, and a dinner for 60+ people following the service. Oh yeah, and I did another interview with the city newspaper reporter! Late Thursday night and Friday morning was spent taking down and cleaning up and just hanging out with my new friends.

I was amazed by the friendship, support, and cooperation within the HIV+ community. I am proud of them and myself for the strength that we all showed as we worked to both remember and to educate! It was a powerful and beautiful 3 days :-)

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