"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
This quote from Dr. Seuss is the tag line on Vini Johns' email and it reflects his approach to his job as a HIV peer navigator at New Horizon Family Health Services in Greenville, South Carolina. New Horizon has a caseload of about 1,200 HIV-infected individuals. Vini helps them access the services they need.
There wasn't always a patient navigator position at New Horizons. When Vini moved to South Carolina in 2013, he looked for ways to get involved in his new community. He became a member of New Horizon's client advisory board. The board suggested hiring a patient navigator. When the position was established, Vini applied for the job.
"Before I moved to South Carolina I didn't realize I had a voice," says Vini. "Not only did I have a voice, it was heard and acted on."
While he helps consumers negotiate care, Vini sees his role as much more. Helping consumers to feel comfortable and address stigma are a major part of his job.
"I tell every patient I meet that they are family and that I am going to treat them as family-we are going to share this experience," says Vini. "It is the most amazing thing to see how my assistance helps them in so many ways. Many of my peers do not talk about their status. They feel very stigmatized. To talk to someone who is open about their status changes their life."
Vini attended an NQC Training of Consumers on Quality in October 2015. While for him, some of the information had already been covered in his training as a peer educator, he acknowledges how important it is to provide this information to other consumers.
"I learned that there is an organization out there that focuses on training consumers to become more involved in their care," says Vini. "There are resources out there that I can share with them."
The training also linked Vini to other NQC resources, such as the Quality Academy. He tries to complete a module once a month to further increase his knowledge and skills.