This Positive Life: An Interview With Richard Brodsky
April 1, 2011
Olivia Ford: How did you decide to start doing international work? And why Kenya? And why a marathon? What was the process?
Richard Brodsky: Originally I wanted to go to South Africa because they have the worst problems but it was tough getting anybody interested. Then we tried going to Ethiopia and that didn't work out. Then somebody said, "Hey, I know you're working on getting your foundation established, but in the meantime you can use my foundation to raise funds." In 2004, we were able to get an orphanage started for 60 orphans and we were able to donate some money to other AIDS projects in Africa, some AIDS research at the University of Florida at Gainesville. But we always felt we could do better.
It's not even just for HIV/AIDS. There's another statistic that UNICEF put out there. There's 25,000, I'm not saying it wrong, 25,000 children who are dying worldwide every day. And the leading cause of death is pneumonia, which they get from unclean drinking water. So that's a real problem in itself. When they talk about, "We're beating AIDS and we're making remarkable strides," I don't find that necessarily to be completely true because right now you're having about two million dying every year. That's still a lot of people. It's about 5,500 people dying every day. You're getting 7,200 people newly infected. So it doesn't sound so good. You get a lot of people dying and then you're getting more people than who are dying who are being infected. There's just a lot of awareness that needs to be raised about it.
Olivia Ford: It sounds like you've done a lot of awareness raising in your own local community as well because you do local events, right? You do a 5K run and walk. Can you talk a little bit about the local events you've done and what the reaction's been?
Richard Brodsky: OK, we can really get caught up in it. In fact, we're going to have our fourth annual event in June. But we also do -- we've done three of them already -- three free runs. We don't charge anybody for them. And the idea is we really want to try and get people with HIV and cancer exercising, because I think the running has really helped me. I'd like others to get that benefit as well. So they're really nice events. We get tons of food. We give out, that event, we give out 45,000 toiletry gift items and we say to everybody, "Listen, even if you're healthy, just take it and give it to someone living with HIV or cancer." Because the thing about these events is we don't want anyone to know who's living with HIV or cancer and who's healthy.
Olivia Ford: So now just a couple questions in wrapping up. How do you think Richard's having HIV has changed each of you individually and how do you think it's changed you as a couple?
"When they talk about, 'We're beating AIDS and we're making remarkable strides,' I don't find that necessarily to be completely true because right now you're having about two million dying every year. That's still a lot of people."
Richard Brodsky: I think I used to be a lot quieter, kind of like tended to not get into any trouble. I was an architect. I had a decent practice. I don't know. Everything seemed kind of normal. Now, I guess, that I have a foundation, I realize there are so many wrong things that are happening in the world. I tend to be a lot more outspoken.
Olivia Ford: And Jodi, what about you?
Jodi Brodsky: I guess you try to, as an adult, plan your future and think, "In 20 years, we're going to be doing this. We're going to be doing that." With an illness, in years to come, I say if someone has an experience with a person with an illness, they just don't know the ramifications, like what happens. In our family, we've been fine, but different. He was the main breadwinner. I had to go back to work. So many things change like that. So I think it changed me just to worry more about day by day. I mean you'd like to say you're worried about your retirement and this and that, but with him it's like, thank goodness he has these years he has.
As a couple, I think it's just changed us. I think it's made us even closer. You can't listen to what everyone else is saying because we would have never gotten our story out if we listened to anyone else, because in our family it was like, "Don't talk about that. Don't publicize it. Quiet." And that's just not what we are or what we believe in. So I think that's how it's changed us.
Richard Brodsky: Very well said. I don't know what I could say.
Olivia Ford: Indeed. On that note, we'll bring this interview to a close. It was such a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
To learn more about or to register for the 5K AIDS Cancer Event, visit www.5kaidscancerrunwalk.com.
To find out more about Richard and his work, visit the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation website.
Olivia Ford is the community manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
This article was provided by TheBody.