Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Interview with Nicole Johns, OHP Staff

Tell us about yourself.  I am lucky enough to have worked at the Office of HIV Planning for a little over ten years, in a number of different roles. I really enjoy my time with the Positive Committee and other committees, meeting people, learning from them, and trying to help make the HIV health care system be as accessible and comprehensive as possible. My partner, Travis, and I have two little boys who keep us laughing and running. I enjoy crafty things like knitting, and also like to spend time outdoors hiking, biking, and playing with my kids.

What made you get involved in the HIV/AIDS community?  I accidently became a public health practitioner and an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. I started working at the Office of HIV Planning in 2002 taking meeting minutes. After I learned the jargon and got to know the people, I was hooked. I enjoy the ever-changing landscape of HIV/AIDS- whether policy, medical breakthroughs or social science - it's always new. I am passionate about ending stigma and eventually ending AIDS. I think my personal skills and strengths make me best suited for the policy/governmental side of the fight, but who knows where this journey will lead.

I also have some personal cause for this fight. A close friend and a family member have been living with HIV for years, thriving and helping others. They are a big source of inspiration and energy when I get frustrated or feel burned out.

If you could change one HIV policy or implement a new policy, what would it be?  I would implement universal single-payer health care for all Americans. This isn't an HIV-only policy, but it is one that would dramatically increase the numbers of insured HIV-positive folks, as well as help millions of Americans have access to health care and prevention services. Until all people have equal access to health care, we do not have equality in America.

Who do you look up to or admire?  I admire my friends who live generous and full lives. I have a friend who started the Student Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia. I have another friend who opened her family's home to two young men who had nowhere else to go. I have other friends who are social workers and teachers who give so much of themselves. There are so many sources of inspiration in my life. For this, I am blessed.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing people living with HIV/AIDS?  Stigma. Stigma is at the root to so many challenges facing people living with HIV/AIDS. Until we end stigma we will never End AIDS.

If you found out your friend was recently diagnosed with HIV, what would you tell him/her?  'I love you and you are going to be fine.' I would do my best to help my friend get a great doctor and find the supports she needed. But most importantly, I would reassure her that I was there for her and I would help her in whatever ways I could. And if she wanted to hear it, I could share with her some stories about all the awesome people I know who are living good happy lives , who also happen to have HIV.

What do you think? Would your answers be different? Take the interview yourself online, and we'll post your responses here.

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