Those who volunteered as part of Australia’s response to HIV and AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s were at the very margins of life and death. The loss of friends, family members, lovers and partners could provoke a range of emotions.
Volunteers speak of anger, the numbing feeling of grief and gnawing of fear. Trauma and resilience are evident in volunteer emotions. It was not uncommon to experience burnout after time spent volunteering. There have been few types of volunteering historically that have been as emotionally demanding as spending time supporting people in the end stages of life.
Volunteers managed emotions in complex ways. Some speak of the friendship and support networks they built amongst other volunteers. Others withdrew from the LGBTIQ community after time spent volunteering. Others immersed themselves in nightlife, seizing the opportunity to find and experience life, music and joy in the passing moments when they could.