Since 1992, Cathy Robinson has dedicated her life to educating people from all walks of life about HIV and AIDS. A teacher, with a degree in education from Florida Atlantic University, Robinson is also the victim of AIDS. She contracted the HIV virus as a student when she was robbed and raped while working at a convenience store. Her husband too has AIDS.
After much soul-searching, Robinson set out on a road that has taken her around the state of Florida to educate many different people. She has made more than 4,000 presentations in the last eight years. These include presentations to students in more than 20 school districts and at more than 40 private schools and colleges. She has addressed parishioners in close to 200 churches in the last two years, and has given programs for Seminole Indian tribes, migrant farm workers, prisoners and drug addicts.
Robinson is highly respected by medical professionals. She has made presentations to physicians and nurses at several hospitals, including Florida Hospital Orlando, Florida Hospital Heartland Division, and Holmes Regional Hospital.. All are impressed by her medical knowledge. She has also given presentations to employees at major corporations, including Corning Labs, General Motors, Walt Disney, Digital, Roche Pharmaceuticals, NASA and J.C. Penny. In summary, she has donated thousands of hours.
Robinson is reported as having the remarkable ability to adapt her message to whichever audience she is address. Children learn how important it is not to touch someone else’s blood. Teenagers learn how important it is to practice abstinence. Drug users are urged to kick the habit or to not share needles.
Robinson provides information in an accurate, honest and open fashion. Her programs are interactive and use real life examples. She encourages any and all questions. She shares her experiences, discusses the discrimination that many encounter, and tells what it is like to live with the virus on a daily basis. She also challenges those who attend her programs to go out and educate at least three other people about HIV and AIDS.
In addition to addressing community groups, Robinson holds other volunteer positions. She serves on the Advisory Board of the River Fund, an AIDS Hospice in Sebastian, Florida; and she is the organization’s education director. Robinson also serves as the Education Director for the Central Florida chapter of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Names Project. This project brings panels of the quilt, which was first displayed on the Mall in Washington, DC, several years ago, to increase AIDS awareness.
Committed supporters of Robinson came together in 1998 to form the Cathy Robinson Foundation. The immediate goal was to raise funds to assist Robinson with transportation and living expenses, as she travels the State with her educational message. The long-range goals is to assist children whose parents have AIDS, especially as the parents become less and less able to care for them. The idea would be to provide these children with supportive services and financial aid for their post-secondary schooling. Robinson believes this is a need to which few are giving attention at the present time.
As the mother of two children, Robinson has seen what AIDS can do to the family network. She feels fortunate to have understanding parents who are helping with the care for her children. She knows it is a sacrifice for her parents as they approach retirement age. She knows too that many others who have AIDS do not have this supportive network.
The Cathy Robinson Foundation has raised $20,000 so far, all of it from the community. Part of the money is being used to produce two educational videos, featuring Robinson in her role as a teacher. Profits from the distribution of the videos will be recycled into the Foundation.