Almost 25 years ago, Christine Lackey was diagnosed with HIV. At the time she was an active drug user and did not see much in terms of a future. While it took some time, Christine soon immersed herself in HIV-related work. In 1997 she began working for the Middlesex, New Jersey Public Health Department as a public health investigator linking HIV-positive people into care. She then became a re-entry counselor for Damien House in 2005, serving as a therapeutic community counselor for up to 60 residents. Along the way she got a degree in public health from Rutgers University (2005), followed by a Master's degree in social work from Rutgers.
"When I learned I was positive I didn't care about my life," states Christine. "Soon I got the feeling that people cared about me. It was a spark."
Christine is currently working as a medical case manager for the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New Jersey. She manages a caseload of over 60 people living with HIV (PLWH) who have experienced challenges with remaining in care and adherence. Christine goes out into the community-homes, fast food restaurants, street corners-and meets her clients "where they are at" to make sure their needs are met. Christine is very good at her job. Over 94 percent of the PLWH in the program have achieved viral suppression.
Christine has also been involved with HIV-related policy activities. She has been a member of the TGA's planning council since 1998 and is also involved in the TGA's consumer quality group. She presented a paper at the 2004 Ryan White All Titles Meeting on making data meaningful for planning councils.
Since then, she has built on this understanding through NQC trainings. These have included learning sessions, trainings for consumers in self-management for her clients, and most recently Christine attended NQC's inaugural Trainings for Consumers on Quality Plus (2016). As a result of the training, Christine will be conducting a training for consumers in the Middlesex TGA in the near future.
"The training re-emphasizes how important it is to be part of the solutions," states Christine. "I don't want to let other people do it. I want to do this work."
Christine has had a remarkable journey. But she has not been alone along the way.
"It has been so important to me to have female mentors. I've had some dynamic women see the potential in me when I didn't," states Christine. "I try to do this with my clients. I can role model their potential."