As the fight against HIV continues, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York is at the forefront, supporting those living with the virus and helping them better understand their diagnoses to improve their ability to manage symptoms and get the emotional support they need. The VNSNY’s AIDS Family Services program makes patients’ lives easier.
In place for more than 15 years, the program started in 1998 to provide home care services to individuals, along with assistance in taking medications. VNSNY helps patients, from the time they are diagnosed, lead healthy lives.
“Our goal is to ensure that all of the services a patient needs are in place,” said VNSNY social worker Amina Bassett. “We want to ensure the patient is connected to a medical provider and has access to medication.”
Bassett added that those in need can take the first step in getting assistance by simply making a phone call. In terms of accessing the program, there is no requirement of having medical coverage.
“Mrs. C” (whose identity is being withheld) is HIV positive. She is an undocumented worker, a mother of two and was homeless and living in a shelter. She is not eligible for New York City public housing through the HIV/AIDS Services Administration because she is undocumented.
Exceeding the amount of time she could stay in the homeless shelter, Mrs. C, working with Bassett, contacted a nonprofit, Harlem United, which was able to provide housing for Mrs. C and her two children.
“All it took was a phone call, and she came to my house and talked to me to see what pills I needed and everything else I needed,” Mrs. C said. “I found out I was infected two years ago and I was referred to VNS by my hospital.”
Mrs. C added that since she’s been working with VNSNY, she’s not only improved her physical health but also improved her mental health.
“It’s really helped me with the state of depression that I was in,” she said. “I learned that I can live a full life and go on. I have two children and [VNSNY] referred me to a housing program where I was to get an apartment.”
Basset said VNSNY takes a holistic approach when it comes to working with and improving the lives of HIV patients.
“One of the unique aspects about this program is the holistic aspect,” she said. “When we enter a home, we not only work with the patient but we work with the families and children as well. We help them understand that life does go on, even though someone is infected with the virus.”
As for Mrs. C, she said that since reaching out for help from the VNSNY, her life has changed for the better.
“My outlook is much brighter and I don’t feel alone,” she said. “I have a happier life.”
For more information on VNSNY, call 1-800-675-0391 or visit www.vnsny.org.