I was born in the 80s, the same decade that the HIV epidemic began. Yet I was too young to remember the fear, the lives lost, the activism, and the scientific advances of the first decade of the epidemic. Fast forward to the 2000s where I found myself and my peers, as young people in the United States, unacquainted with the reality of HIV around us.
HIV became my doorway into public health after a summer spent volunteering with World Camp during college, where I taught basics about HIV prevention to primary students in Malawi. The statistics about the global AIDS epidemic that I’d heard in the classroom became real for me there, as did the overwhelming notion that there was no easy, fix-all solution for eradicating this disease. I am grateful for my undergraduate experience at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that offered many ways to continue to stay involved – through HIV testing and awareness events, educational opportunities, research, and fundraising.
Those HIV experiences brought me to JSI, where my projects focus on the HIV epidemic here in the U.S. JSI was a reawakening for me that the domestic epidemic is still a critical public health issue. People at JSI, our clients and partners, and especially community members with whom I work are doing powerful, inspiring work in many facets of HIV.
Through the AIDS.gov project and work with the Santa Clara County and San Francisco Departments of Public Health, I’m reminded of how far the epidemic has come. And I’m excited to play a part in the new direction it is going in this decade – the beginning of the end of AIDS.