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January 26, 2009

The training I got in ASC's PREP program is helping me save lives at my new job today.

In 2004, I was at an in-patient treatment community when a friend told me about ASC's Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP). I joined PREP and learned a lot of things I wasn't aware of before, about safer sex, HIV, hepatitis C, and harm reduction. PREP was a wonderful experience—ASC did a good job of training me. When I graduated from PREP, ASC gave me many opportunities as a Peer Educator.

As an ASC Peer, I did educational presentations for people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS at health centers, drug treatment programs, and transitional housing facilities all over New York City. I made presentations on TB, safer sex, and harm reduction. It made me feel proud of myself to go into the community and share information I thought was important for the community to know.

All that time, I got so much support from my ASC mentor, and from the staff and Peers at ASC. They stood by my side and believed in me.

In 2007, all the work I'd done at ASC opened the door to a great job as an Outreach Worker/Health Educator at St. Vincent's Hospital. I work in the Maintenance In Care Program, helping to bring HIV-positive patients who have been lost to follow-up back into the health care system. I make home visits, provide education and counseling, and encourage these patients to come back to the hospital and get the medical care they need.

I've brought more than 200 patients back into care since April 2007. There's no amount of money in the world that could make me as happy as I feel when I do this work and know that I am basically saving someone's life. Many of the people I talk to are off their medications, involved with substance abuse, and very ill. Some of them would have died if they didn't get connected back into health care. So I'm very proud of what I do.

I got the job at St. Vincent's because I was prepared for the work 110% due to my experience as a Peer Educator at ASC. I had all the requirements for the job, and the people I work for are happy with my performance. They know that when they send me into the field, I'm going to bring back results. ASC played a major part in where I am today by giving me information, training, support, and respect to help me get my life back together and do something positive for my community.

Photo: David Nager/ASCNYC

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