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What does it take to be a buddy?

Training classes for the AIDS Coalition Pinellas Buddy Program are scheduled Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 5 at the Hospice building, 300 East Bay Drive, Largo.

People who would like to be paired with AIDS patients are required to attend all three of the daylong sessions. Speakers will include a doctor talking about the disease and how to deal with it. Others will discuss drug and alcohol abuse of some patients, social service agencies such as Hospice that can help, how to be friends with the patient's whole family, grief and bereavement.

Also speaking will be several people who have AIDS.

Debbie White, a volunteer coordinator for the program, said participants have included mothers who have lost sons to AIDS, sisters who have lost a brother, teachers, church representatives, retirees and people who have HIV but do not yet have AIDS.

Buddies are asked to spend at least an hour a week with their new friend, though many spend more time than that. Emily Wilson, who has been a buddy for two years, stresses the importance of long-term relationships and says those who volunteer should be willing to stick with it.

White said some patients request a buddy soon after they have been diagnosed, while others don't call "until the 11th hour." In some cases, she said, a buddy is the patient's only friend in the world.

Buddies are encouraged to attend monthly meetings of a support group during which they share ideas on how to help AIDS patients and how to deal with their deaths.

To get more information or to register for the classes, call Dyan Redick at the AIDS Coalition office, 449-2437.

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