Working in the HIV Field Has Been a Good Thing

Submitted on May 28, 2018 by  Nancy Duncan

Living for so many years with HIV I often reflect on things in the past and how I dealt with the many challenges that have come my way. Today I'm thinking about how grateful I am to have been able to go back to work part time. I remember in 1992, at only 35 years old being forced to stop working at my job at USPS as a letter carrier because the complications of AIDS made it impossible for me to do it any more. It was strange at first, now working after so many years, and I felt death was looming. Fortunately I had my son who was only twelve years old then and I spent most of my free time taking him to school and trying to spend as much time as I could with him. He gave me something to live for and strength.

I'm 60 years old now and was able to start volunteering and working part-time in the HIV field 20 years ago. I chose not to give up my social security disability at the time because I was not cured and still having some health issues. It started with some volunteer work at People Coalition With AIDS and the Long Island Association for AIDS Care and I later moved on to part time work at Planned Parenthood in 2004 and still work there. I have been able to share my story with hundreds of people, have done countless hours of street outreach and assist with HIV testing in our mobile van. About three years ago I also became a peer worker at the clinic where I receive my health care. I write a newsletter every month, Community PROMISE, and help facilitate the Healthy Relationship workshop we run four times a year for our clients. Both are CDC evidence based interventions. I became a NY state certified peer worker in 2016. I've seen my son grown into an amazing, good man, who is now 38 and my health has been pretty good. I thank God every day for these blessings. I don't take much for granted anymore.

Most people can't wait to retire. Not me, I'm going to keep doing what God has kept me here for, as I know I have encouraged and educated many to get tested, and have given hope to those who are newly diagnosed. So if I've prevented others from getting HIV, that is a good thing and rewarding at the same time. Keeping busy has helped my anxiety also. I encourage others to get involved in whatever capacity they feel comfortable doing.

I plan on being around for a while longer because until the AIDS epidemic is over, our work here is not done. There is always something to be grateful for and there is always hope.

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