Whetstone Consultations was launched in 1999 by Cheri Britton Honeycutt, M.Ed. to train public and private healthcare providers how to engage in quality HIV counseling and testing conversations. The focus was, and continues to be, the connection between high quality communication skills and a genuine desire to support the client as a direct means to meet the public health goal of slowing the spread of HIV and other communicable infections.
Many changes have happened in the world of HIV; in treatment, in the populations most affected, in society's response to those with the infection and the ways in which it is spread. What has not changed is the need for health professionals to connect on-on-one with their patients as a means to help them change their behaviors and decrease their risk of getting infected.
For over 20 years, Whetstone has provided this important training at the request of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, a partnership that has together trained over 4000 professional across the state of North Carolina.
My first job right after graduating from the University of Tennessee was as an HIV counselor with the Knox County Health Department. HIV was still relatively new in 1986, particularly in the South. Those who came in for testing were primarily men who had sex with men and those using IV needles. I saw quickly how important it was to be a skilled communicator, have a compassionate heart, accurate information and sincere willingness to be of service. These early conversations greatly shaped me and set my life on an unexpected trajectory.
In 1987, I got married and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and began my work as an HIV Investigator (that’s what Disease Intervention Counselors were called back then) for the Mecklenburg County Health Department. I was specifically hired to gather data for research being conducted by the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. My task was to find and counsel persons who were HIV infected and then notify their sex and needle partners of their risk and offer testing. In this job, I split my time between work in a clinic and going out into the community and into people’s homes to talk about HIV and other things which most people didn’t speak about in public.
I estimate that during my four years at the Health Department I counseled thousands of people about the test and reducing their risk. I estimate I told 300 people or more they tested positive for the virus. At the time there was very little treatment so we in public health relied heavily on good communication skills, an ability to make compassionate connections and the willingness of people at risk to change their behavior. I learned A LOT about just how hard it is to change behavior.
While at the Health Department, I earned my Master of Health Education from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The focus of my studies was on community health. As I finished graduate school, I took a position as the Education and Training Director the Planned Parenthood of the Southern Piedmont. I later held the same position for the Planned Parenthood of Raleigh NC. In this work for both Planned Parenthoods I discovered my love of and gift for training professionals. Let’s just say, training people to connect with their clients and patients with confidence, compassion and skill is one of my true passions. Training people is my sweet spot!
In 1994, I had my first child and began to work part-time as a contract trainer. I conducted many trainings for a variety of organizations across the southeast; trainings largely centered around sexual health & HIV, healthy communications, and personal development.
In 1998 I founded Whetstone Consultations. I decided I could do the trainings AND bring the bagels! In 1999 I was awarded the contract by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to train professionals across North Carolina and have been happily doing this important work for 20 years.
Many things have changed . . . there have been shifts in how the disease is viewed by the public, we have better treatment available to a larger number of people, there have been new and emerging populations at risk, etc. Those of us working in Public Health have had stay on our toes.
During all of these changes, I have continued to LOVE coming together with health care professionals and helping them acquire the skills, the confidence and the right attitude to make a real difference in the lives of their clients.
It’s an honor to do this work.
Hi. I’m Cheri Honeycutt and I’m the Founder and CEO of Whetstone Consultations. I’ve been working in public health, specifically with the issue of HIV, since 1986. I like to say I began when I was five but that’s a stretch. I’m way older than that!
I even wrote a book about how to change our thinking several years later entitled called BOOM Thinking: The Gutsy Guide to Breaking Out of Old Mindsets available on Amazon.com.