From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette… (http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/osd.jsBy David Templeton)
During the deadliest years of the AIDS epidemic, Alan Jones worked in the trenches, dealing with medical casualties on a daily basis.
The early 1990s represented an unwinnable war and race against time, with patient after patient wasting away from diseases associated with the human immunodeficiency virus of HIV.
Many patients lacked money, enough food, and sufficient housing, transportation and medical care. Others were keeping their infection a secret from family members and friends, fearing cessation of communications if the truth be told.
One patient’s family, for example, would leave only a daily bag of food at the infected person’s front door.
With July 1 representing his 25th career anniversary with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Mr. Jones, 60, of the North Side, agreed to describe the battles he’s helped to wage against AIDS as a caseworker with his current focus being prevention, counseling and testing. His longevity on the job is news enough, considering caseworkers often last only a few years before falling victim to the emotional trauma and burnout.
Prior to his role with the task force, he worked a full decade at the former Dixmont and Mayview state hospitals as a caseworker for deaf patients with psychiatric problems.
“To keep on giving at his level and to keep on being as nurturing and caring as Alan has been is incredible,” said Mary Hawk, a former PATF caseworker now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “You have to remember that when he went through that, he was traumatized and carried every death with him.
“He’s truly an exceptional person,” said Ms. Hawk, a doctor of public health. “The work really matters to him. And the individuals he served always mattered to him.”
Mr. Jones, a certified HIV prevention counselor with the task force, speaks openly about why his job is so challenging.
“I’m pleased to see an age when people are living with HIV and AIDS. It’s a much different picture than 25 years ago,” he said. “The scary thing is that it is a normal need and desire of people — especially among the young but true of everyone 16 to 96 — that we want love, and many people will do anything for love, sex and intimacy.”