It all began during the AIDS epidemic

May 2, 2017

Photo by Gregory Ciurczak

My interest in healing work has been lifelong, but my need to be more hands-on began in the middle 1980s. I was living in the San Francisco Bay area and still do, but back then the Bay area was Ground Zero for the AIDS epidemic and the premier AIDS education and support organization in the nation was the Shanti Project in San Francisco.  I was too far from San Francisco to volunteer, but in my county, Santa Clara, I found the Aris Project. Modeled on Shanti, it was the standard bearer for HIV support and education in my area and I signed up to volunteer.

The idea of being an “emotional support volunteer” resonated with me. They were the folks who simply were “with” people who had HIV. Hung out with them. They lent an ear, really. They were a sounding board for all the heartbreak, fear and laughter that surrounded life with HIV. And yes, there was laughter.

healing-workDon’t try this without training

But they didn’t just let us loose on an unsuspecting group of gay men. Yes, back then HIV was primarily a gay disease, although not completely, as I ended up facilitating a group for women who had HIV.  But first, an intense, two-weekend training was required, and I do mean intense. It was a training that prepared us for working with people who had a potentially (and back then, often) terminal disease. That meant getting in touch with our own “stuff,” including our own mortality.

I have to admit that back in the late 1980s I had had little experience with death and dying. This was all new to me and I spent most of the two weekends crying because everything touched me so deeply. But by the end, I was ready for my first “client.” And the healing work that wouldn’t heal the body, but could help heal the soul.

Most died in those days

My first client,, Y. was from my part of New York state and, although quite different from me, was a good match. I remember him visiting me at my parents’ house in Rochester when we were both in the area at the same time. Back then HIV was a death sentence for so many and after a year or so, he died.  My next client was a transsexual prostitute and she was directly responsible for my compassion for and views about the trans world. She died, too.

I have to say that my time with the Aris Project was life-changing. It’s gone now and the need for it and groups like it also gone. But I see now that my many experiences with Aris were the foundation for what I’m doing with my new business, A Healing Spirit.  At Aris I learned how important it was for sick people to express themselves. To express their fears along with their hopes and dreams.  To feel grief and let it out. And also to focus on healing.


Healing Affirmation Cards at

Giving credit where due

And thus, all these years later, was born the healing work represented by my line of products and services that support healing.  A Guided Journal for Healing, to allow people to express some of their deepest emotions about their illness. Healing Affirmation Cards to help focus their daily thoughts on healing–because the mind/body connection is real.  A downloadable audio file for those having treatments, like chemo and also one for those who suffer anxiety. Because a serious illness is a reason for anxiety. Not to mention the one-on-one hypnotherapy I offer.

I’m not exaggerating when I give credit to the Aris Project and those who helped train me and with whom I eventually worked with side by side as a trainer. Carol, Gregory, Harry, Denny, Dwayne, Mike, Lori, Bob, Pat, Nancy, Julian, Marty and so many, many more–you all played a role in the development of these products.

And it feels really good for me to be able to offer them to people who could benefit from this kind of support for healing. I hope you’ll come look around at my online home, A Healing Spirit.  Thank you.

53 comments on “It all began during the AIDS epidemic
  1. Going today. I think this will be important and comforting for me while I stay close to my dad. Thank you.

  2. shari Eberts says:

    Great to better understand the inspiration for your site. Off to check it out.

  3. Katy Kozee says:

    I had a friend who volunteered for a similar project during the same time period. It was very hard on her to get close to folks and watch them die. So glad you were able to translate this into something that can help other people as well.

  4. August says:

    Wow, thanks. This has never affected me or anyone I know so I’ve never thought about it, but it really is a problem. I blog about mental health, which I feel is overlooked, but so many physical illnesses are overlooked as well. Thanks for the info and the reminder.

  5. Such a lovely topic! I’m a firm believe in natural healing and swear by it

  6. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about this. You are a remarkable woman and your compassion for all regardless of faith, ethnicity, sexuality or other is beautiful. I am a huge advocate and supporter for the LGBTQ community and despite facing many of your patients deaths, I guarantee that they were all touched by your love and compassion x

  7. tara pittman says:

    I have a friend who does hospice and when she talks of clients she has joy and tears. I admire those who help the dying

  8. Barbara says:

    We lost so many due to the AIDS epidemic. When my sons were toddlers, my friend, and hairdresser, Charles would come to my house to do my hair. When Anita Bryant was on her anti-gay kick he told me, “If I ever see orange juice in your house again I won’t come back!” He was kidding…sort of. He still lived at home with his parents and they were completely in denial, even though he was away most weekends at the baths in NYC. One night when the folks were supposed to be away they came home early and caught him with another man. Everything went downhill from there. He gave up and was the first one we lost to AIDS.
    In the late ’90’s my sons, now grown, were both working and living in Philly. One was a bartender and they sponsored the Gay Softball League. Each team was allowed two ‘breeders’ and my boys got that honor for their team. I was proud of them! One of their friends on the team called me ‘Motha Hammond’. I was honored. Within five years we lost three more to AIDS. I’m sure your products could have been helpful back then, Carol. I know you will have great success with this adventure!

  9. What an amazing project you have taken on. I remember when AIDS first showed up….it was definitely not a good diagnoses in the beginning. Not that it is now either but we have made a lot of advances.

  10. You are a healer. I’m interested in the hypnotherapy…is it only past life regression?

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this! Your last several posts have been particularly touching to read.

  12. I remember when AIDS first made its mark on the world. It was such a horrible time. There was so much sickness and death and – unfortunately – a lot of hate, too.

  13. Liz Mays says:

    I can see how your experiences helping these people would have a long-term impact on you. It’s great that you’ll be able to continue helping people through their ailments.

  14. Cheri says:

    What a wonderful story, Carol, and a reminder of those painful days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.Keep up all the good work that you do!

  15. Our Family World says:

    You do a very noble job. I took care of my father when he was stricken with cancer. I could not bear to see him wasting away. He was my strength! I have so much respect for people like you who make the lives of sick and the dying more comfortable and helping their families to cope as well. May your tribe increase!

  16. My 65 year old aunt died of aids related pneumonia in the early 80s after a brief relationship with a gigolo after her husband died. I had numerous friends die that I knew doing theater in L A. It affected all of us. So good to know you were involved in such a positive way back then.

  17. Pam says:

    I just read a story the other day about a woman who spent her time helping during the AIDS/HIV epidemic. I can only imagine how emotional it was for you and the other helpers…and most importantly, the people themselves.

  18. kelly reci says:

    holy topic! this is very interesting adn worth sharing!! I am also a believer!

  19. what an important subject you are involved in there, Good for you. I hope that many others will be inspired by your story, to reach out in any way they are able, blessings!

  20. Ali Rost says:

    My best friend works with hospice and while it isn’t the same .. she still feels a huge connection to people who are going to die. It has to be so rewarding for you to think back to that time and know you made a difference!

  21. Wow what a heartbreaking experience. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been, but what a great way to support people going through such a difficult time. The grief journal is such a good idea for those in need to release some of those emotions.

  22. You’re an amazing person for doing this. Sometimes people underestimate the power of just having someone else there with you for support.

  23. Neha Saini says:

    Help to people having problems is noble. Helping those having AIDS is too. You’ve been in this for a long time now. The world needs more people like you..

  24. Prateek Goel says:

    Such a amazing topic! natural healing is the only best option.everyone has the right you express and live! I’m a supporter of LGBTq, they are also a human!!
    Interesting post!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    What a selfless organization to have been part of way back then – you would have helped so many people in such important ways. Hats’ off to you! Big respect!

  26. Karlyn Cruz says:

    I am glad to know about this! Racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic, and represent the majority of new HIV diagnoses, people living with HIV disease, and deaths among people with HIV.

  27. Brianne says:

    What a moving story! This never affected me but I know so many people that it has.

  28. Ravi says:

    Truly inspirational.I agree, healing has a lot to do with emotional support. Appreciate all the efforts you would have put to help people heal emotionally.

  29. This is really inspiring! People in this situation really needs emotional support. Glad that there are people like you ready to give them comfort and emotional support.

  30. Jennifer says:

    This is such a touching story. I have never been directly touched by AIDS but this is admirable.

  31. Coralie says:

    Thank you for your service. I was able to help my sister during her last days while she battled cancer and while it was hard emotionally, it was fulfilling to get so close to her and have those memories.

  32. Rosey says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you got involved. I’m sure there were some very hard moments involved, and a lot of everlasting effects and emotions.

  33. Our Family World says:

    I am so proud of you and the work that you do! You are admirable. I have lost loved ones to cancer and I have first hand experience caring for them while they were battling the disease. I hope there are more people like you who are compassionate. You do make pain and suffering a little more bearable.

  34. Jenny says:

    I’ve been wanting to get into natural healing. I just love your story and background. Thanks for sharing this!

  35. Kristi says:

    Thank you for bringing awareness and sharing about something that’s important to you.

  36. What an amazing experience! You are so remarkable woman! I’m not sure I can be just like you. Keep your good work, you are so inspiring me.

  37. Kimberly C. says:

    People are people no matter what. It takes a special person to deal with people who are suffering.My mom is an RN and she has been through everything including death of patients. I have much much respect for anyone lending some form of comfort to those who need it.

  38. eazynazy says:

    this is truly a wonderful post . keep up your good work

  39. Elizabeth O. says:

    Now I understand where it all came from, your compassion and understanding for people especially those who are trying to be healed and are looking for emotional and mental support aside from the meds that they’re getting. I think it’s amazing that you are so passionate about this business and I hope you help heal a lot of people.

  40. Anosa says:

    You are such an awesome person. I hope there will be so many people like you and may you serve as an inspiration to others too.

  41. chubskulit says:

    What a great cause you are taking, I hope that more and more people would be like you to help out those in need. Such an inspiring story.

  42. Rebecca chun says:

    This is an awesome topic and a very inspiring post. I love the idea of providing a healing journal. I know for me personally, I always find keeping journal very helpful.

  43. Amanda Love says:

    You drive to help people is amazing and we need more people like you especially these days. I believe in your passion and your determination to make the world a better place.

  44. This was such a heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing about it with us.

  45. NICHOLE Shirell says:

    This is filled with with passion for the what you Love. It is sad and beautiful in some ways.

  46. Lindsey says:

    What a loving person you are. I am greatful and admire you so much for becoming a healer.

  47. Yeu Doi says:

    Inspirational work! Well done! We need more people like you!

  48. Echo says:

    Healing is so needed! It is also so much more mental and physical, than people realize.

  49. Yuen Mi says:

    I remember AIDS back in the ’90s was a huge thing. I remember being so angry when someone would blame it on the gay community because they’re uniformed. People needs to be more empathetic. Thank you for documenting your journey.

  50. katrina gehman says:

    i love the idea of the healing affirmation cards. i’m sure those who receive really appreciate it.

  51. Mr.M says:

    Truly inspirational post.I agreewith you, healing has a lot to do with emotional support and love. Appreciate all the efforts you would have put to help people, HIV/AIDS is very serious and we must help people with that diagnose as much as we can, I have people around me who fights with cancer and I know how much is important to help them with support.

  52. Thanks for sharing this story. Truly inspiring. Hope more people will do the same.

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Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


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