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He makes his living by delivering the bad news

Of all the cases Dan Green has worked, there's one that acutely haunts his mind's eye.

Green recalls the sunset and the news he delivered to the man as they sat on the beach house porch: "You've tested positive for HIV."

"That picture still hits me: How beautiful it was out there, and me giving him information like that," Green said. "It just sticks."

It wasn't the first time Green has delivered that news. The 43-year-old health services supervisor does it for a living. His work for the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services also includes testing and counseling for other sexually transmitted diseases.

But those diseases pale in comparison with the human immunodeficiency virus, Green said. It is believed that the virus causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The man Green talked to that day was a particularly difficult assignment. He had just rejoined his wife and children. It had been a long separation. He and his family had rededicated their lives to Christ, Green said.

They were looking forward to their future, but it was not to be.

During that separation, the man had used drugs and shared needles. When Green returned several months later, the man was dead.

Despite his work, Green swears his job isn't difficult. He swears it with a smile. He says Jesus gave him that smile.

"I've heard people say it's the toughest job in the world," he said. "And it's definitely an emotional strain. Before Christ found me, I guess it was a strain."

That faith in God and the support of his family and community, Green said, have given him the strength to face his job every day.

Green's a burly man who said he's known to friends and family as a talker. They're right. In seconds, he can turn from sober stories about the people he has counseled to jokes about his children and co-workers.

Green said that's part of his defenses.

He comes from a large St. Petersburg family: six sisters and three brothers. Although he had his problems with such a large family, growing up with nine siblings taught him how to identify different personalities and to work with people of varied backgrounds.

"You've got to be able to deal with people in any walk of life because that's who this disease hits," he said. "It's not just pimps and prostitutes, it's doctors and lawyers."

People respond to the news of a positive test differently. "It depends on their perspectives," Green said. But numbness is the most common reaction. He calls it the "Lose It Stage."

"Everyone you talk to loses it until you bring them back. . . . Sometimes it may take you the rest of the interview to get them back," he said. "You have to get them to say, "I know what it is that I have.' You have to get them to understand that this doesn't mean they are going to die next week or next month or next year."

After his years of experience, Green still fears certain encounters. "The people I dread telling most are children." To Green, that's anyone under 18.

His first HIV-positive case was one of those. She was a 16-year-old girl who had left home. She had traveled around and "been on the streets," Green said. Later, disillusioned, she had returned to her parents.

She didn't handle her test results well. She lost it, then asked, "Why me, I'm so young?" Green said, "I got her through it."

But there are even worse people to inform of a positive test, Green said. People who have been sexually assaulted and infected by their attacker.

"Their reaction is often, "Why is this happening to me? I haven't done anything.' In those cases, it takes a lot of soothing. We become easers more than anything else."

Though he says it's rare, Green has been overwhelmed by his work. He recalled counseling a 17-year-old woman who had been sexually assaulted and who had tested positive.

"When I told her, she just couldn't stop crying. . . . I had to leave because it started getting to me," he said. "Over the years, I've trained myself to hear it, to deal with it and then to forget about it. But sometimes you have to just chill for a while."

"Chilling" has involved trips to the Bahamas to forget his work, Green said.

Green directs two weekly clinics and, with several other counselors, works with about 500 people each week.

A typical session at one clinic lasts about three hours, but often Green finds himself late for his next clinic because he's still counseling people from the last.

"Every person that comes in there has a different problem," Green said. "They want you to solve that problem that they're having. We have people come in drunk. We have people come in high. We have to make sure everyone is treated properly and with respect."

Green said it's a never-ending job. He has met some of his patients in public who greet him shyly, afraid he has told someone of their problems. It can take kind words for some, a blank stare for others to let them know their "secret" is safe.

"Sometimes it's the opposite," he said. "They'll see me out in public and they'll say, "Hello,' and tell me how I helped them get past their problems."

Sitting back and thinking about all the work and all the hassles, Dan Green changed his mind.

"I guess when you think about it, this is a tough job."