VOA News Profiles HIV/AIDS Counselor Who Works in Washington, D.C.

VOA News on Wednesday profiled Pernell Williams, an HIV/AIDS counselor in Washington, D.C., who provides HIV testing and counseling at the Whitman-Walker Clinic's Max Robinson Center. The D.C. Department of Health reports that 80% of HIV/AIDS cases in the city occur among blacks. Williams provides help to people who test positive by guiding them to other HIV services in the clinic and the community. In addition, he provides counseling on HIV prevention and risk reduction.

Williams said that in parts of the district, few people are aware of their HIV status. He said, "My passion as part of my job is to get as many people to be tested as possible," adding that many people, particularly minorities, "do not even believe they could have [HIV] because they still think it is just a gay, white men's disease, and it could not be further from the truth." Williams said that it is his goal to help people living with the disease to live more productive lives, although overcoming the stigma remains difficult. Williams added that HIV/AIDS is a "serious illness, but it is not a death sentence" and that many HIV-positive people are living longer. He advises clinic visitors on the best ways to reach others in the community and uses a two-part approach that combines counseling and group therapy for HIV-positive people. Williams said, "If we can change things here, if we can make a difference on this corner, in this ward, in this city, then the reverberations can help the entire country," adding, "And in fact, we can help rid the world of HIV and AIDS" (Maroney, VOA News, 2/25).

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