APICHA Community Health Center, New York City
I would tell them not to be afraid, to be courageous. We may compare cancer in many ways to HIV; but cancer does not have the kind of stigma that's associated with HIV.
I think that HIV is insidiously changing. It's not just a gay white man's disease; now it is a disease that mostly impacts communities of color, low-income communities, communities that may not be prioritized. Now it impacts places where there are, like, third world missions or peripheral economies that may not have the resources or capacity to be able to deal with HIV.
Another disturbing thing about the HIV field: I think it takes a lot of courage because you will witness a lot of very discouraging events, like people becoming positive even though you've done prevention education work with them; people dying when you're a doctor and you're caring for them, and you're trying to make them adhere to treatment. When you're an outreach worker, people yelling at you.
To enter HIV prevention work, it takes a lot of courage, I think, because there is so much pressure and a lot of the stigma around the community. For anyone who's entering HIV work, it is one of the most fulfilling types of work that you'll be able to do, but you must take heart: Don't be afraid.