Frank Tant, all-star volunteer, peer educator & board member
Diagnosed with HIV in 1988, Rome resident Frank Tant
has found solace in volunteerism and in dedicating his
life to HIV education and prevention.
In this way, Tant
has become one of the AIDS virus's biggest combatants.
"I don't want anyone else to have to sit down with their parents and tell them that they have a disease that will probably kill them before their parents die," Tant
said, who had a similar conversation with his
Tant's need to raise awareness about AIDS has led to his
involvement with the AIDS Resource Council
Tant has been a board member for five years, and works in the office as the administrative assistant of Jeanne Cahill, executive director of the ARC.
also has a hand in creating fundraisers and coordinating a variety of services that the ARC
One such service is the ARC's
food delivery program that is funded by Open Hand.
delivers packaged food to some who are infected with the AIDS virus in Rome.
"If I had one word to describe Frank
, I would use committed," said John Rivest, friend and fellow ARC board member.
In addition to the food service, Tant
facilitates HIV testing for the ARC
, administering tests in the office Monday through Thursday of every week.
also does AIDS testing at local schools and health fairs.
"We estimate that 30% of the people infected with HIV don't know because they don't get tested," Tant
"And getting tested is the only way to know."
Tant grew up in Rome, Ga. and he worked as a real estate agent in 1979 as the youngest licensed realtor in Floyd County, he says.
"Being a kid, and the interest rates being the highest they had ever been….
only sold one house," Tant
unsuccessful venture into real estate, Tant
began working at restaurants in Atlanta in 1980, including a four-star restaurant named Carsley's.
Tant worked at Carsley's from 1985 to 1987, moving up to general manager in 1986.
It is here that one of Tant's favorite national figures frequented.
"Coretta Scott King used to visit [this] restaurant," Tant
said, who named one of his
two dogs Coretta after King.
was an amazing woman…I thought the world of her
moved to Key West just before Carsley's closed in 1987, and began managing a restaurant called Coconuts.
It is here that Tant
met his partner, Bill Rennie.
The two moved to Manhattan in June 1987 and in 1990, Tant
lost Rennie to the HIV virus.
"Even though I knew he
would [die], when he
passed away in my arms, it was gut-wrenching," Tant
Tant experienced another tragedy three years later when he
suffered two strokes in 1993.
In 2002, Tant became a member of the ARC, and began his work as an educator.
This work involves Tant
providing comprehensive AIDS education to various populations in Floyd County, including young people at the Bob Richards Regional Youth Detention Center
"For me, the most rewarding part is the teaching," Tant
"I always wanted to be a teacher."
This desire to teach was sparked in high school, when Tant
realized that he
had a knack for biology.
"It was one of those subjects I was good at," Tant
"And I had a high school biology teacher who was excellent…[and] made me want to teach."
interest in becoming a biology teacher, his
father convinced Tant
to major in business at Stetson University
According to Tant's father, teachers did not earn enough money.
"I did not enjoy it," Tant
"I was there for my freshman and sophomore year, majoring in business, which I hated, and dropped out."
With the ARC, Tant finally has the opportunity to be an educator.
"Living with the disease as long as I have and losing as many people as I have, I have a unique perspective that can be used to guide them," said Tant
Peer counselor and educator
This first-hand experience dealing with AIDS, along with his
formal training as a peer counselor, has uniquely equipped Tant
to facilitate the ARC's support group.
"I don't want to go into a support group with a particular agenda," Tant
"I want the group to be theirs, and I am just there to facilitate it."
Tant also works with the North Georgia AIDs Alliance in Carterville, which runs a program called THRIVE.
provides information on how to get financial assistance and instruction in safe sex practices, "to help people thrive with HIV, rather than just survive," Tant
As a part of THRIVE, participants are divided into groups to discuss the formal presentations as well as their personal issues relating to AIDS.
Tant helps lead one of the groups.
"It gives me a feeling of accomplishment that I give . . . something that can save lives," Tant