Counselor Reese helps care for clients with HIV

Counselor Reese helps care for clients with HIV

July 28th, 2011 by Holly Leber in Business Around the Region

Samantha Reese, a HIV tester and councilor with Chattanooga CARES, right, instructs 23-year-old inmate Kenneth Wayne on how to perform a voluntary swab test while being booked into the Hamilton County Jail.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Name: Samantha Reese

Location: Chattanooga Cares

Position: HIV patient retention and adherence counselor

What that means: "I'm a case manager. I deal primarily with linking and keeping clients in care."

First job: A pet care specialist at Pet Smart.

How she got involved: "My mom has worked in the HIV field, in the health department, and I did a lot of volunteer work for her. I got introduced to Cares through her and her work, so it was a shoo-in when I got my [bachelor's] degree [in psychology]."

Best part of the job: "Working with people one on one, when you finally get people to stay in care, when that clicks and they're ready to help take care of themselves, then you can help them more."

Worst part of the job: "It can be frustrating dealing with people. As a case manager, you're dealing with a lot of landlord issues, stuff like that. It can be really frustrating going through a lot of red tape to get your clients the help and assistance they need."

What she's learning: "The struggles people face every day. You'd be amazed at some of the issues that we face with our clients. They're looking to us for help, and we have the tools. But it's just amazing to see what people go through, and really kind of saddening, but to be able to help them is really kind of empowering."

Why the work matters to her: "There's a lot of stigma and negative attitudes toward HIV and toward people with HIV. I just wanted to get out there and help those people."

How to make a career of it: Start volunteering. "Cares has a lot of need for volunteer work, and if you prove yourself in that sector, it's easy to pick up a job from there."