“Our imagination and our capacity to hold hope are intricately and delicately linked.” 

Jeanette Webb holds a smile in her voice and wears her heart on her sleeve. She is firm in her truth that hope is an infinite resource and never truly can be lost. Jeanette works to facilitate and co-create spaces that prioritize taking care of one another, where all questions are welcomed and judgement free. 

Jeanette has arrived in her new role as our Senior Implementation senior coordinator in October 2021. Jeanette arrived at her work through research at UIC on incarcerated women. Through her research Jeanette began to study the trajectory of incarcerated women’s lives, realizing how differently their lives could be with adequate support. This work eventually led Jeanette to work with incarcerated populations directly. Jeanette worked as a county employee for 15 years and developed public health programming within these spaces. In committing to this work Jeanette had to navigate a field that is largely dominated by white males. As a researcher, educator, case manager, advocate, she has entered many roles with the express purpose of support.  

In meeting people where they’re at, Jeanette prepared for her work wearing extra thick boots to avoid getting stuck with any needles, while also carrying condoms to promote and provide opportunities for safer sex. Jeanette is about prevention and putting care into motion. This idea can lead to fear for some, and that doesn’t stop Jeannette. She told me about the fear from the patient of her first positive HIV test result, yet her telling pulls on hope. She describes holding and weighing the reality that despite having been in school some folks might not know or comprehend what living with HIV is like. In this Jeanette maintains that there is no loss of hope. 

In her work Jeanette works closely with teenagers, Jeannette expresses that she is fascinated by and appreciates their uber curiosity. Perhaps the tool that Jeanette and teenagers hold most closely is their imagination.   

Hope helps to create a powerful network of tools especially as it relates to the work of undoing the stigma surrounding HIV. “Our imagination and our capacity to hold hope are intricately and delicately linked”. Jeanette expresses that in confronting the stigma around HIV it becomes increasingly important for education regarding HIV to arrive before stigma even has the chance. Her work encourages us to get ahead of the stigma. Her practice orbits from an abundance of safety, curiosity, imagination, and education.  

For the future Jeanette speaks about her life as a Christian woman and where her work intersects. She expresses that congregations will have to change to create healthier congregations and that entails unraveling stigma. She see’s her role as one as a caretaker, regardless of an individual’s viewpoint. As stigma functions to close down conversations, we are obligated to take care one of another by connecting to one another.