Talking with Pamela Wilson
The needs of persons with AIDS are comprehensive and required a comprehensive policy response.
“The Ryan White Care Act provides for a large range of services; certainly the provision of primary health care is one of them, but also case management, mental health services, home delivered meals, food bank, transportation – all the things you can imagine might be necessary for people to get their health care. When you look at things like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if people don’t have food, clothing and shelter they are not going to go and take care of their health. It is part of the whole Care Act: there are programs that help pay for rent as well as other things that help support a person’s infrastructure so that they can get health care and be adherent to medication…For an average person it is not unusual for medications to cost $1200 a month. The Ryan White Care Act provides services to people who are uninsured or underinsured and predominately pretty poor…People are living longer and have a better quality of life then they did before, it has never been this complicated to live with the disease, it’s phenomenal.“
Working with people is an opportunity and an inspiration.
“Wherever you are people have made a choice to come there and to continue to work with you and to share parts of their life, to share parts of their disease and their poverty and their lack of resources and so I think its a gift to be able to work with people, to engage people and find services and resources to make the clients’ lives a little easier or more successful… its difficult to ask for help, a lot of people come because they have struggled and tried on their own to maybe take care of oneself… I have served a lot of professionals, dentists and doctors and lawyers, people with advanced degrees who haven’t been able to continue their employment or are in-between benefits and who really don’t have access to health care and prescription drug coverage…it’s a whole spectrum of people.Helping is really inspirational, people are amazing. People with nothing provide great inspiration and… are generally really appreciative… I love working with people.”
The change from direct service to program and policy work provides different opportunities and rewards.
“For a social worker there are so many opportunities and if you do anything well people are going to want to reward you and promote you. So I think I’m so far away [in current job] from client services because I have been professionally successful… Often opportunities take you away from the direct service and interaction with clients.I think it’s really great to have my social work background; there are economists and mathematicians that I work with and they know book stuff… and I know people with AIDS and I’ve been through their trials and tribulations, I know what its like to go to the pharmacy and get a bag of drugs… I feel that grass roots has really helped me…I think it helps me a lot to come from a place of service…Now with a new president and a new health and human services secretary I’m doing a lot of briefing packages to keep them up to date and I do all the strategic planning for AIDS services around the country for the Government Performance and Results Act. I work with programs and people at the local level to develop outcome measures that provide evidence that the dollars invested have really good results. I do a lot of work in the area of strategic planning [for meeting the needs of] minorities and around health issues in the Indian Health Services in order to better serve that population…I came to work exclusively for people with AIDS very early in the epidemic. I think that just the historical piece [is inspirational]; the changes in the last 10 to 12 years in the epidemic and what I saw then isn’t what I see now.
Ms. Wilson was asked if she were to do it all over again, would she still pursue Social Work.
“Absolutely.I’m absolutely positive. I think it has been an incredible opportunity to know people from all walks of life and be able to do really good work… I feel really lucky that I’m here today and that I was blessed with the skills to do that well, to work with people very well.”