Dominique Hayes is the Lead Care Coordination Specialist (CCS) at AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). She began her work in the field as an intern with Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative (PACPI). Now rebranded as the Mother and Child Alliance (MACA), this initiative provides prenatal and postpartum comprehensive services to pregnant women and their families. Over the course of the following four years, Dominique supported clients living with HIV who were navigating Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program (IL ADAP) medication resources, and now has a caseload of over 60 people through AFC’s Ryan White case management service. In this current role, she aids her clients in receiving dental support, housing assistance, food cards, and HIV-related health care. Outside of working with clients, Dominique’s role also allows her to assist fellow CCS’s with their clients, conduct monthly check-ins, and train new staff hires.
AFC’s Ryan White case management program is a product of the Ryan White CARE Act, signed into law on August 18, 1990, which is the largest federal program that focuses on providing treatment and care exclusively to people living with HIV/AIDS. The Act was named in honor of Ryan White, an Indiana teen who became HIV-positive through a tainted blood transfusion, resulting in him being unjustly expelled from school. He then became a passionate, well-known advocate for HIV research leading up to his passing in 1990 at the age of 18.
As the Lead Care Coordination Specialist for this program, Dominique Hayes shared that while having a large caseload of people experiencing a range of hardships can be exhausting, she enjoys going above and beyond for her clients, seeing them as family. For example, Dominique helps her clients with Christmas gifts during the holiday time, and bookbags for their children during back-to-school time. Currently, AFC case managers are required to connect with clients quarterly by phone or email, and every 6 months in-person, but Dominique recognizes the value in flexing with a person’s individual needs in order to make them feel truly supported.
“I have a client who is going through chemo right now, so I don’t wait the three months. I call him every time he has an infusion or an appointment, or send a text message with a picture saying, ‘You’re a blessing, keep fighting.’ Anything to be encouraging. You really have to base your contact on the needs of your clients—that kind of breaks you up from the rest because anyone can do this job. But who is going above and beyond? My clients are more than the requirement and I’m okay with that!”
This is a standard that Dominique Hayes establishes with all her clients. They require assistance with very taxing experiences like housing instability, accessing life-saving medications, or even disclosing their HIV status to someone for the very first time. Working with vulnerable communities takes more than paperwork and data entry—it takes establishing long-term relationships and a foundation of trust. And this trust shows through how Dominique’s clients interact with her. When one of her clients unfortunately passed away, Dominique received an invite to his funeral service because he ensured that his family had her contact information. Being given such a high level of faith is something Dominique never takes for granted.
Dominique truly enjoys witnessing her clients’ progression and “graduation” through the Ryan White program. Going from experiencing homelessness to finding a home to support one’s family is a feat, and Dominique does what she can to continue supporting her clients after the fact. The Ryan White Program does an amazing job at getting people living with HIV the resources they need, but there is still room for more aid.
“One of the services that I really feel could be challenging is sometimes people have requests that we don’t offer. For example, we’ve filled out your housing application and they pay your security deposit, but now you have to come up with $250 because we don't have any funding to furnish your apartment through Chicago Furniture Bank. Or we want to give you a full card for food, but you don’t have pots! I wish that we could offer Walmart cards—just something to help connect the dots.”
AFC’s Ryan White case management program is a monumental step towards ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois because reducing transmissions is not simply a medical concern, but a social and economic one as well. For this program to cover resources like HIV-related healthcare, transportation, housing, and food and gas presents its commitment to supporting the communities we serve at this organization.
August 18th marks the anniversary of the Ryan White CARE Act. If you are someone who would benefit from AFC’s Ryan White case management service, visit our page for more information here.