As part of World AIDS Day last week, Dance Marathon hosted two speakers from one of our charities, Sasha and Jeffro from Camp Heartland. Mark, a former Camp Heartland camper, was unable to make it to Boston University that day, but his wife, Sasha, came to share their story.
Sasha and Jeffro were both counselors at Camp Heartland, a camp for children with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Camp Heartland provides kids with a place to go to feel comfortable and have fun in a safe environment. The camp is a place where kids don't have to worry about being judged- from what Sasha and Jeffro have told us, many campers don't share their condition with their friends at home, and the stigma against HIV is still alive and strong in the United States.
Sasha told us that her husband Mark was born with hemophilia, and he contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. He couldn't tell his community he was HIV positive as he was growing up, but after attending Camp Heartland and then becoming a counseler, be began to speak out against the stigma. Sasha met Mark on Camp Heartland's Journey of Hope AIDS Awareness Program, which is a bus tour around the country where campers visit schools, churches, universities and other community groups to share their stories. The Journey of Hope program aims to convey these messages:
1. AIDS is preventable
2. AIDS is not transmitted causally
3. All people with AIDS deserve compassion
4. Get tested
For more information about Journey of Hope, click here.
Jeffro shared with us a song of hope written by one camper he has worked with, and Sasha shared with us the ways her and Mark are trying to have a baby. Sasha told us about the ways she and Mark can help prevent their future child from contracting HIV, which include sperm washing (semen carries HIV, but sprem does not).
We learned so much from Sasha, Jeffro and Katie, a nurse from Boston who has worked at Camp Heartland and also came to speak with us. Thank you so much to them, and we hope everyone who attended learned as much as we did!