Working the frontlines to beat HIV/AIDS in the Downtown Eastside
Jacey Larochelle says seeing the lives of her clients living with HIV/AIDS in the Downtown Eastside improve makes her job worthwhile.
Since Feb. 2011, Larochelle, a nurse with Vancouver Coastal Health, has been working with the STOP HIV/AIDS outreach team.
The 29-year-old is one of the frontline nurses working to serve people facing multiple barriers such as addiction, mental-health issues and homelessness in their journey dealing with the potentially deadly virus.
“We’re working with a very vulnerable population with a lot of trauma and trust issues,” she says. “The most important job is connecting with people and building that relationship and meeting where they’re at.”
Larochelle says she has 30 clients in her caseload and meets up with 10 to 15 people a day.
Scott Harrison, director of urban health and HIV/AIDS at Providence Health Care, says nurses are the ones who put science into action and “translates it into people’s lives.”
“HIV care is something we do with people, not to people,” he says. “Being present in the community and learning about the people that you’re providing care for is essential.”
Nurses provide a wide range of duties from monitoring medication adherence, helping people get on disability or social assistance and connecting people to doctors and other healthcare services, Larochelle says.
“There’s just something amazing about trying to connect with a client, particularly the women,” she says. “They are usually a lot harder to build relationships with and gaining their trust, but after working with someone for two months and you go visit them at their place.
“You see they’re having a great day and they want to give you a hug when you leave. You just know that you’ve gained their trust and you’ve accomplished something. That’s the best part,” she says. “I think we’re making a difference and I think the clients think so, too.”