Susan Tellier went to Gay Pride's Virginia Festival in Richmond Sept. 27. Her goal: try to convince people to get tested for HIV and AIDS.
By all accounts, Tellier is good at it. As the HIV testing coordinator for the Fan Free Clinic, she connects with people and they trust her. She seems to understand both fear and relief. She even has a high rate of return testers.
Then she has the task of telling some of them news that will change their lives. The news often is devastating, followed by questions that are painfully personal, yet important to track.
“I grew up in New York City and saw what happened when HIV-AIDS hit the scene,” Tellier says. “I've lost people close to me to the disease, and I currently have a relative and many friends suffering from this illness.”
A single mom, Tellier also volunteers her time with the Henrico County Court Appointed Special Advocates. She's spent a thousand hours helping dozens of children — abused, neglected or alone — find something that they can cling to.
For Richmond's at-risk children and adults, Tellier's touch is unmistakable. She's held hands, wiped tears and offered hugs, providing hope and compassion whenever trouble falls.