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The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than a million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and AIDS, and more than half a million have died. Aside from their medical problems, many are also isolated from their friends, families and communities. But, as Reed Galin explains, a retreat called “Strength for the Journey” offers acceptance and practical advice for those living with the disease.            

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Johnson City, Tenn.)

It started as a place to comfort those who were dying.

Buddy Loveridge/Strength for the Journey Participant: “I was so ashamed.”

Now, it’s a place where AIDS patients learn how to live.

Participant: “Things get easier.”

Nat/Campers in canoes: “You’re free.”

Twice a year, the United Methodist church’s Buffalo Mountain Camp in east Tennessee hosts week-long retreats for adults living with HIV and AIDS.

Participant: “I can just let it go here.”

With medical advances, some of these campers have survived twenty years. Still, new treatments haven’t taken away the stigma of this disease.

Buddy Loveridge/Strength for the Journey Participant: “I missed out on seeing my nieces and nephews grow up, because they were not allowed to be near me.”

Ginny West-Case/Buffalo Mountain Camp Director: “We had one man who, his family made him eat on only disposable paper ware.”

Campers meet each day to discuss their challenges.

Darrell Fleeman/Strength for the Journey Participant: “It was two years before I even told anybody.”

Stuffed animals hold the phone numbers of their group leaders, in case campers feel suicidal.

Nat/Strength for the Journey Counselor: “And we want you to make a covenant with us, that before you do anything, you’ll give one of us a call.”

Affirmation notes keep spirits up, when they come down from the mountain.

Buddy Loveridge/Buffalo Mountain Camp Participant: “I have a drawer at home and when bad things happen, I go to that drawer and pull them out and remember the good times.”

And one thing there’s no shortage of on Buffalo Mountain is a caring touch.

Ginny West-Case/Buffalo Mountain Camp Director: “Some of them are so hungry for touch and to feel that somebody’s not afraid to touch them and not afraid to hug them.”

Strength for the Journey Camper: “My family’s here.”

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The United Methodist church also sponsors Strength for the Journey camps near Los Angeles. The ministry started more than 15 years ago.

For more information about the Tennessee program, contact the Holston Conference Center at 865-690-4080 or 866-690-4080.