You've just been diagnosed with HIV, and you have no health insurance, nothing in your savings account and nobody to lean on for support. Where can you turn? The best place to go: your local AIDS organization or HIV clinic, where a case manager will take you on as a client and guide you through this extremely difficult transition.
Case managers and social workers are the calm in the storm for thousands of people living with HIV in the United States. They know how to get you access to the resources you need. If you need housing assistance, they know who to call. If you need food or clothing, they know where to find it. If you need counseling, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, you name it, they will find a way to hook you up with it -- or provide those services themselves. Many case managers and social workers hold a master's degree in social work, leaving them highly qualified to provide personal counseling.
Our HIV Leadership Award winners include people like Yolanda Rodriguez-Escobar, who works for the only women-centered AIDS organization in San Antonio, Texas. She provides her clients with one-on-one counseling, facilitates four different HIV support groups and oversees a host of educational and outreach programs.
Then there's D. Wing Takakuwa, whose dedication brings her to the doors of her HIV-positive clients' homes in rural Hawaii, where she makes sure that they are taking their medications and getting everything they need.
Each of our 10 case manager/social worker winners brings a personal touch to HIV care that you can rarely find from a busy doctor. When a person has to rely on HIV medications to stay alive, it's easy to lose sight of how important the quality of that life is. These winners don't rest until they've done all they can to ensure that their clients are connected to all the resources they need.