25 Stories: Rob Bullock


February 16, 2012



Rob Bullock was a social security adjudicator in the early 90s; at the time, The Damien Center had just started. There were no social security benefits for people with HIV, so many people were denied.

Rob knew that people were dying, and that they needed care. He began looking through the 5,000 page operations manual to try and find the secondary diseases that would help get people living with HIV the benefits they needed.

Through his hard work, Rob earned a reputation in the community as an advocate for people with HIV. He was soon asked to work for The Damien Center in 1992, where he oversaw most client-related activities. School systems were under pressure from parents who did not want their children receiving safer sex messaging; instead, Rob and The Damien Center were asked to provide presentations so that the students would get the information that would one day save their lives.

Rob remembered how there was (and still is) cultural pressure for men in the Midwest to get married and have children. Many married men would contract HIV from discreet sex with other men, and then have unprotected sex with their wives – thus passing on the disease.

It’s much better now that HIV isn’t a death sentence, but it’s still out there. “I don’t think we hear the HIV message as much as we used to because it’s not as imminent,” said Rob. “People aren’t dying as quickly.”