I started this process about a month ago, and things are going well so far. To help everyone understand the process, I have made a Reinstatement Timeline (kind of like the popular "Application Timeline"). Please feel free to click on the tab above or read my timeline here.
I will not include all documents/e-mails pertaining to my reinstatement, as I do not feel it would be ethical to publish other peoples words/writings on here. But, I will present to you the official Reinstatement Request that I sent to Peace Corps:
Dear Zambia Country Desk Officer and Zambia Country Director,
I am writing to request that I be reinstated to my service with Peace Corps Zambia. I was medically separated on October 26, 2011, after 45 days of medical evacuation. This was due to severe illness caused by Acute HIV Infection.
Since that time, my main focus has been to regain my health and to deal with my HIV diagnosis. I have also become very active and involved with the HIV community, and educational, advocacy, and awareness events. One of my biggest accomplishments has been to create a blog to publicly share my story with the world. To date, my blog has received 100,000+ views, 100+ subscribed followers, and has been viewed in 120+ countries. It has been such a touching and amazingly meaningful opportunity for me to share my story in this way and to make a difference in the lives of PCVs, RPCVs, Applicants, PC Staff, HCNs, NGO workers, family members, and the general population! In addition to my blog, I have participated in ongoing HIV trainings, led HIV speaking events for high school and college students, volunteered for AIDS Awareness and Testing events, and given newspaper and radio interviews.
HIV was at first a startling and traumatic diagnosis for me. However, I have now come to feel that, in some twisted way, maybe this was meant to be. I feel that it has led me to a new passion and purpose in my life. I feel a duty, an obligation, and a desire to share and to educate, to spread knowledge and awareness, and to stop stigma and discrimination. I feel that messages about HIV can come from no one more powerful or meaningful than a person actually living with HIV. This is why I feel that I would be such a valuable asset working with HIV within Zambian communities, as well as educating other volunteers about HIV.
Through all of this, I have not let go of my Peace Corps dream. Being medically separated and having to leave my service so suddenly has been heartbreaking to me. Just as I know that I am meant to do HIV work, I know that I am meant to return to Peace Corps and finish what I started.
In addition to my intrinsic desires to return to service, I also have a desire to act as a role model, and to pave the way for future HIV+ volunteers, just as people like Jeremiah Johnson, Rebecca Coulborn, and Elizabeth Tunkle have paved the way for me. These brave HIV+ volunteers came forward in 2008 to encourage Peace Corps to reconsider its HIV Policy. Now, I strive to show future volunteers and the world that Peace Corps will stick by that policy. I strive to show any volunteers and others that an HIV diagnosis does not mean an end to their life, their job, or their dreams.
I realize that my medical condition will require some special accommodations, but I believe that the Medical Office will agree that my health has reached a stable point and that with some minor accommodations it would be safe for me to return to country. I am currently on treatment, have an undetectable viral load, and have a CD4 count well above 500. The Medical Office is already aware of my desire to reinstate, and has stated that they will feel comfortable granting me medical clearance if I can maintain these levels through June 2012.
Due to my prolonged absence from country, I would optimally prefer to reinstate with a new cohort, complete training again, and be given a new COS date. I think that this would be necessary in order to help me regain my language skills, as well as make meaningful connections with other volunteers. I am also aware that my original site in Nteme, Southern Province has already received a volunteer to replace me. Due to the timing of this request and of incoming training groups, along with my new passion and strengths in HIV work, I would like to be considered for reinstatement as a CHIP trainee with the August 2012 group.
I realize that I am asking a lot with this request. I am asking that you be willing to take an HIV+ volunteer and all associated medical accommodations into your country. I am asking that you consider giving me a new job assignment and allow me to reinstate with a new training group. I am asking that you give me a second chance to finish something that I previously, through poor choices of my own, brought to such an abrupt end. Please know that I will do everything and give everything to make this work. Please feel free to contact me with any and all additional concerns or questions that you may have.
I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully working with you to make this reinstatement possible. Thank you for your time and consideration.