HIV Positive and Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Contributed by Elizabeth Tunkle, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Zambia and Lesotho.

When you join the Peace Corps, many people ask you why. I never had a very good answer. But the truth is something way down deep inside of me told me that is what I needed to do and I listened. I really had no idea what I was getting into. I thought 2 years would go by in a flash and I would come home better for having gone so far from home and for having done such a noble thing. Two years did not go by in a flash and I came home changed but not how I thought I would.

I started out my service in Zambia and after getting posted to my village, as I was settling in, I met my future boyfriend. When we started dating, I asked him if he had been tested for HIV. He told me yes. He told me his test was negative just 1 year before and he had not had unprotected sex since his last test. We mutually decided it would be safe for us to use birth control and not condoms. We were wrong. Despite the fact that I knew all about HIV prevention I had unprotected sex with him anyway.

A few weeks later, I decided we should get tested. I had a bad feeling. I tried telling myself that it couldn’t be me. I was going to be fine. Too many times in my life I had played with all kinds of fire and survived. Not me. I was too nice and honest and fun and giving and I practiced yoga and meditation. We get bonus points in life for being good, right? No, I guess we don’t. HIV doesn’t just choose mean people or people who tell lies. It turned out it chose me. We found out my boyfriend was positive and that I was also infected. As if that news isn’t devastating enough, the Peace Corps told me I Continue reading

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The Return of Peace Corps Rwanda

Map of Rwanda32 Peace Corps Volunteers will be sworn-in today in Kigali, marking the return of the Peace Corps Rwanda program after a 15-year absence.

According to the Peace Corps, its presence in Rwanda ended 15 years ago when “the the civil unrest that resulted in the genocide” began. (Read more about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.)

The new group of Volunteers, who have been in pre-service training in Rwanda since January, will work on health and community development assignments, including collaborating with the Rwandan government and its U.S. government partners  to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Like the United States, every Peace Corps host country has its unique history and psychological scars from past Continue reading