Sister Linda Bellemore does not wear a habit. But next to the insignia identifying her as a member of the Order of the Holy Cross, she wears a button that reads "Heal AIDS with love."
Because of her work with people with AIDS, she is known among friends as "the AIDS nun" and along with Sister Joan Steadman, handles the needs of AIDS patients once they leave Holy Cross Hospital."The program was started because we saw a need here that no other organization was addressing," she said.
Sister Linda said the Order of the Holy Cross in Utah goes back to 1875 when Mormon leader Brigham Young asked the organization to come to Utah to help care for miners who were sick and needed medical attention.
Helping in areas that other organizations are not addressing is what the Order of the Holy Cross is all about.
The program at Holy Cross Hospital is designed to help patients deal with the disease once they leave the hospital.
While all area hospitals handle people with AIDS, Sister Linda said Holy Cross seems to get the majority of AIDS patients at some time in their treatment because Dr. Kristin Reis, who treats many of them, admits all of her patients there.
The program started nearly one and a half years ago with Sister Linda. Sister Joan came on board last August to help with the education part of the work.
Sister Joan has background as a health educator and offers instruction in the ethics of the disease as well as the transmission of the disease.
Sister Linda has been a registered nurse, but now works with the pastoral care staff as well as the health care staff in her work with people with AIDS.
"Caring for people with AIDS is a blessing and a challenge both, " she said.
The people they work with are young and not used to being sick. Many times they are not aware of the resources available to help them and don't know where to turn.
When a person with AIDS is admitted to Holy Cross, one of the sisters visits him or her and offers help. When victims are released, the sisters make sure they are taken care of at home.
"We think people with AIDS that are in a caring environment do better than those who are not," Sister Joan said.
Both agree that the most effective technique for AIDS patients is so-called "hug therapy," along with spiritual comfort.
"Very few of the people we work with are Catholics," Sister Linda said, "we encourage people to discover what the real meaning of life is to them, whether or not that includes religion."
But, she added, many of them choose to invest in a "divine insurance policy."
The sisters do whatever people with AIDS need them to do, they have taken them shopping for groceries and to doctor's appointments besides checking on them at home.