Besides running the Nevada AIDS hotline for a number of years, before it was dismantled, I did HIV/STD epidemiology, partner notification, test counseling and education. I'm also the facilitator of several HIV support groups, both for people with HIV, and their families/friends. These support groups are both in person, and online as well. No two support groups are ever the same. I also do active AIDS outreach and education online. Just as a traditional outreach worker walks the streets to educate the community, I walk the cyberstreets to educate the public about AIDS and other STDs.
As you could imagine, my job is not just a 40-hour-a-week job. But it's worth my time and effort. Somehow, in addition to my professional duties, I find time to travel the world. Besides having traveled all throughout the United States, I've also traveled to the Arctic, the Amazon, Australia (including "the Outback"), New Zealand, the Middle East and, most recently, Africa. You come to learn just how different people are around the world, and how much we're really all alike. Since I don't have any immediate or extended family, my friends are my family. I grew up as a very high risk youth, and did what I had to do to survive. I still ask myself how I made it this far, but where there's a will, there's a way.
Simply put, if I can get this far, and do what I've done, and still be alive to tell about it, anybody can do anything they really want. You just have to have the courage and the willpower to do whatever you wish!
Rick Sowadsky, MSPH, is the senior communicable disease specialist for the Nevada State Health Division AIDS Program.