Teaching and learning about the BLC

Hi! Caitlin here, the BLC’s Prevention and Education Specialist. I asked our summer intern, Julie, to reflect on an assignment that she had to complete as part of her internship – Julie recently hosted a seminar for her cohort here at the BLC and presented to them on what we do here. I asked Julie to tell us about it.

Here is what I asked: Post about your experience having your seminar at the BLC – what did you present to your cohort? What were your peers’ reactions to the BLC? What did they learn? What did you learn?

By Julie Lee, BLC Intern

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Each week during my summer internship through the Boston Community Health Program, the other students in my cohort and I gather for a seminar at one of the internship sites. During these seminars, two students present on the agencies where they are interning for the summer and educate the rest of the cohort on what they are learning and how they are contributing. Last week, the BLC hosted the 7 other students in my program. I gave a presentation about the state of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., about what we’re doing at the BLC, and a little about my experiences here so far. Thank you to Morrigan for staying late to host us!

While I was working on the first part of my presentation – about the state of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. – I realized a couple of things. I realized that I had learned a lot in the short time I have been here about HIV/AIDS – about the history of the epidemic, of the way it disproportionately affects certain populations, what T-cells or CD4 cells are, what antiretroviral medications are, and what terms like “virally suppressed” and “engaged in care” or “retained in care” mean. I also realized that I really had no idea what my fellow interns knew and hadn’t known about HIV. Looking back on it, I wish I had given them a questionnaire beforehand so I could gauge how much they knew. Having been born after the epidemic came about, I assumed they knew basic facts about how HIV affects the immune system and how it is transmitted from person to person, but my guess is that they didn’t know very much about the populations most affected.

My peer students were very engaged in my presentation about the BLC and asked some very insightful questions. Some of the questions were ones that I didn’t fully have the answers to, such as why exactly HIV affects certain populations so disproportionately, and what holistic care – which is something we promote at the BLC – really means. So I was thankful that Morrigan was there, because she was able to answer questions that I couldn’t. It turns out that holistic care looks at the patient “as a whole,” or as a person with physical, spiritual, psychological, and social aspects of their lives. I found myself learning new things even while I was giving my own presentation!

I think that my fellow interns learned a lot about HIV/AIDS from both me and Morrigan. But I hope that they also considered how complex caring for someone can be when the illness can’t be treated by one operation but rather requires someone to adhere to daily medication regimens – especially when that person has a lot of other things they’re struggling with such as homelessness, substance abuse, or food insecurity. I also hope that walking into this building and seeing the dining room, library, art studio, etc., made them realize how helpful a caring and supportive community can be. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to share with my peers a bit of the amazing things that happen here at the BLC, and I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to contribute.

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