Back in 1988, the AIDS epidemic was constantly in the news. It had only been part of the public vernacular for a few years, but certainly was front of mind among the gay community in the Bay area .
It was then that I began to volunteer with the Aris Project in Santa Clara County, as an emotional support person for PWAs (people with AIDS). The Aris Project began in 1986. It was Ground Zero for education, practical support and emotional support for PWA and their caregivers in Santa Clara County, Calif..
All volunteers went through a two-weekend training. Intense, it was. Really intense. Many interactive exercises that helped put volunteers in touch with their emotions, their feelings about death and dying, their own mortality.
I’d never experienced anything so powerful It was a life-changing training. For all of us.
Soon after, I got my first “client.” I began facilitating a support group weekly for women with HIV. And ended up becoming a trainer myself. Through all of these activities, I became friends with a core group of like-minded men and women.
Aris went away a few years back, a victim of reduced funding for AIDS activities. Which was a good thing, really, because PWAs were living longer and more normally, thanks to better treatment. When was the last time you saw someone wearing a red ribbon?
Time, distance and other things frayed the bond that held me to our little group.
And then, the other day, I had an email that went something like this: “I told my mom you were on Facebook and she’d like you to email her.”
His mom was a nurse at Stanford who was my trainer from Aris 21 years ago and part of our little group.
We finally exchanged emails this week and I got to catch up a bit on where everyone is. We’ll probably get together once I’m back in California.
I want to hate them.
But I just can’t.
And yes, those are Hello Kitty condoms.