Writing About the AIDS Resource Alliance

Visits to all of our field sites in Sociology 215 are meant to do three things:

(1) Encourage you to think about readings and class topics and to use those materials in your discussion of the field experience;
(2) Raise issues for you about participation in community life and political activity and to discuss how engagement and social responsibility, or disengagement and social irresponsibility happen;
(3) Give you field experiences to prepare you for other courses that will have more intensive field experiences, like Anthropology/ Sociology 201.

Your paper is not meant to be long. Three or four pages will be enough. You also should not try to write about all of the themes given below. Pick your focus, state it, and give lots of description and detail to develop your points.

There are three objectives for participation in the AIDS Resource Alliance.

1. To observe and participate in a community volunteer organization.
2. To learn about how the government and other entities organize funding and program assistance for AIDS and to think about how a program like the AIDS Resource Alliance relates to the politics and policy-making around AIDS in Pennsylvania and in the U.S..
3. To meet and work with people with AIDS.


1. After you participate in AIDS Resource Alliance (ARA) experience, write a brief description of the experience. You want to describe things in specific and particular ways. You do not need to describe everything that happened. The emphasis should be on specific things that caught your attention and that you found surprising. Reflect on why you noticed these things and what you learned.

Some students are visiting ARA several times. Other students have taken SOCI 201 or another course where they are required to write field notes. In either case, if you keep a diary or log about your experience in the program you are likely to generate more writing than is required for this assignment. You may hand in everything that you have written if you wish. I would prefer, however, that you hand in writing that concentrates on a few striking or important experiences. You should write about these in as much detail as you can. Avoid providing a general overview description except as a way to introduce your reader to the setting. Your description of experiences should be specific and detailed and should tell about something that surprised or interested you.

2. If you participate in an outreach experience you will want to talk about how people responded to information provided about high risk behavior. Since experiences will be diverse it is hard to tell you in advance what to look for. In some settings you may find the setting unusual and interesting. In others it may be difficult, uncomfortable, and strange to approach people to have these conversations. In other situations you may encounter school populations where the whole discussion of sex is a bit uncomfortable. Tell about how the message was given, how it was received, and what you learned about how people orient to high risk behavior.

3. If you participate in an ARA fundraising event most of your contacts will be with staff and board members and their social circle. One of the important things you are likely to see is that the ARA is the major charitable project for certain communities you probably do not normally encounter. You may find yourself in a gay community event or in a community even of recovering substance abusers. Your task is to write about the importance of this charitable event for people in these communities. Ask people why they participate and what ARA means to them.

4. In some ARA experiences you may be introduced to some people with AIDS. If the opportunity allows and if you feel comfortable with this, be outgoing, get to know people, and see if they will talk about their experience with the disease. The objective of these questions is not to get detailed information about their personal biography but to hear what one experiences having a highly stigmatizing disease in a small town like Williamsport. You may also talk to them about they experience living with a serious chronic disease and facing death. People you meet may talk freely about these subjects. If they do not and if the setting does not allow for this sort of conversation, you may instead talk about how ARA staff members relate to their clients and what you perceive about the experience of living with AIDS based on meeting these clients.