When he was diagnosed with HIV at 19, Jason Crum had never even heard of AIDS. And the clinic where he received his test results wasn't much help to him.A psychologist informed him that he had a sexually transmitted disease caused by HIV, gave him a 30-day supply of AZT, and sent him on his way. Crum took the pills and figured that was it. He finally grasped the truth about his condition a year and a half later when he was watching a TV program about AIDS with his mom.
'Back home in Kansas, we're small-minded folks,' says Crum, who is now 34 and describes himself as healthy. 'That's stuff no one ever thought about.'
At first his new understanding propelled him into action. He got into HIV community-service work and started giving speaking engagements to high school kids. But after he moved to Chicago at age 24, this burst of energy subsided. Faced with the realization that he might not live to see 25, he fell into a deep depression. 'I just closed myself off from society completely,' he says.
But spirituality, he says, helped lift him out of this rut. He sought guidance from several spiritual leaders and found hope in Christianity. 'I needed to take a deep breath and just accept it and move on,' he says in reflection. 'Of course, it's easier said than done. But that's what I did. And now I'm progressing to better things.'
Having worked in the travel industry for several years, he is now spearheading a seven-day retreat for HIVers and their family and friends on a cruise through the eastern Caribbean over Halloween next year. He hopes the trip will provide a haven that will foster the kind of healing he has found. On the ship Carnival Victory, the event will boast all the Carnival Cruise Lines bells and whistles, and Crum is adding spiritual sessions that he says will welcome all people. Speakers for sessions who were scheduled at press time include Osbourne Landis and bishop Terry Angel Mason.