Providing health care with dignity

The results are in undetectable = untransmissible; it had been for sometime.  Promotion seems necessary, we are still trying to sell PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis)  that is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected… And now we have even better outcomes to share; people with undetectable viral loads cannot pass on HIV to their sex partners.

Lots of people living with HIV have injected  “I’m undetectable“… in their peer conversations.  Imagine how relieve they are to add … “uninfectious which means I will not pass on HIV to  you when disclosing to sex partners.

For the  people who make it their business to inject fear into sexuality and sexual relationships for people living with HIV it will be difficult to embrace the results undetectable = untransmissible .    Many continue to harbor (believe) outdated information on HIV.  The ones who continue to spread unhealthy fear from their places of influence; such as health care workers at HIV treatment sites.  Some are so set in their judgmental behavior  which can breed shame in the clients they serve, and shame is a known enemy of health and recovery…defeating the purpose they are engaged to fill.

Undetectable = untransmissible …mmm.  What does this really mean for women living with HIV?   Will this be motivation to tolerate the side effects of ARVs?

Will access to treatment and care become more accessible?  Health care providers that respect clients/patients and provide dignified treatment and care.  Schedule blood test with the results available in a timely manner and discussed with clients.  Pharmacist that respect your privacy and confidentiality enough to resist making snide remarks to your love ones picking up your prescription.

JCW+ will be having Test , Start and Stay conversations for women living with HIV because it is important that we are in an informed position to take responsibility for our health….and demand a quality standard of care.

In January 2017, the Ministry of Health’s National HIV Programme adopted the 2015 (World Health Organization) WHO guidelines, which recommend that anyone who is diagnosed HIV positive be offered treatment (Test and Start).  Treatment as a method of prevention is another benefit of the WHO new guidelines as more PLHIV are virally suppressed and consequently the risk of transmission is decreased.

According to the announcement made last year at the National HIV Programme annual review and planning retreat, the ‘Test & Start’ initiative anticipates that an additional 1200 new patients will be eligible for treatment.

Current estimates are that over twenty nine thousand persons are living with HIV in Jamaica; but approximately 19% are unaware of their status.

HIV is very much on the priority is the approaches to interventions that MUST be adjusted.


World AIDS Day Carnival

On December 1,  AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Jamaica in collaboration with the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) and The ASHE Company strengthened by a consortium of NGOs involved within the HIV response in Jamaica, hosted a carnival style road march. That event I just had to attend – on behalf of JCW+ of course 🙂

The march which lasted a little over two hours and saw hundreds of patrons in attendance and begun at the transport terminus in Cross Roads leading all the way to St. William Grant Park in Downtown, Kingston. There were students from schools within the corporate area such as Wolmer’s Girls High School; and even expanded to include those from rural areas such as Morant Bay High School and Seaforth High School – both in St. Thomas, just to name a few. The march also included Conroy Wilson, Executive Director at The ASHE Company; Dr. Chevannes- Vogel , Executive Director at NFPB and Dr. Nkhensani Mathabathe, UNAIDS Country Director for Jamaica, among other persons of stature.

The extravaganza consisted of a marching band and cheerleaders to lead while patrons carried a huge banner to declare the day and our message. The dancers came out in full swing and energized the crowd to move as the music from the Zoukie flatbed trucks was quite electrifying! Let me just say I have two left feet but I did move as the shock wave took over the entire streets – as the saying goes “everybody can dance but ah nuh everybody dancer”. We ALL danced. Catchy dance moves such as breadfruit, save yu self, yeng yeng, among others were taught to those with a desire and while the volunteers sought to hydrate the crowd by distributing water along the way for drinking purposes, it almost turned into a water party as water was being sprayed all over the crowd.

Along the way commuters, passerby and those standing in awe were engaged in conversation and given tops to join the festivity of commemorating love, support and compassion for those with living with and affected by HIV as we seek to halt, reverse and prevent the spread of HIV.

Upon arrival at the St. William Grant Park the marchers were welcomed by Johnny Daley who had been hosting the all day long health fair as he handed over to Emprezz Golding and the Talk Up Youts Crew, who conducted condom challenges for those who can correctly put on a male and insert a female condom. And of course the challenge winners were awarded prizes.

A chill room was available for the youths with a desire to know more about safe sex and condom usage; live coverage was done by RJR communication groups; and mostly basic health checks such as HIV and syphilis testing, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc., were provided for FREE as well self care in the form of hair-do, mani-pedi by volunteers.

Performances to further energize the crowd was done by Devin Di Dakta and T.I.F.A.

Lots to update you on! But despite all the planning and funding pumped into the activity, the success of the march highly depended on the mobilization of patrons from the partners to include but not limited to, The Jamaica Community of Positive Women (JCW+), EVE for Life Jamaica, Family Planning Association of Jamaica (FamPlan), the Ministry of Education, Parent Teacher Association of Jamaica and the commuters that decided on the spur of the moment to grab a t-shirt and join the march for the cause.


World AIDS Day march Hands Up For #HIVprevention.



Mental health as defined by World Health Organization, is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of mental illness. It is the “psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment”. 1

Often times we misunderstand the importance of having our mental health needs addressed. You are called mad or crazy and thus many of us suffer because of the taboo on mental health.

I asked myself if there are mental illnesses that affect men only and any that affect women only. Well I did not get a straight answer on that one but based on my research I was made aware that mental health does have some aptitude of gender biases and although men tend to suffer more from suicide, women are generally more affected by the more common mental disorders. I shall continue my research but this year as the focus of mental health week is on the prevention of suicide it is critical for me to dispel the myths of mental health and shed light on some facts with you just to get us all to understand the dire need for seeking to help persons and ourselves with our mental health issues.

FACT: “Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year and there are many more who attempt suicide. Hence, many millions of people are affected or experience suicide bereavement every year. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year old globally in 2012.” 2

With that being said can you actually tell me a mental health myth and a mental health fact?

Mental health problems does not affect everyone. Can that one be considered a myth of a fact? Truth is mental health is pretty much like HIV or any other STI, although you may not be infected, it does affects us all. Take for instance depression. This is one of if not the most common mental disorder affecting at least 350 million people globally with majority of those being women and young people. It enables disability and has the ability to fuel suicide. We are therefore left footing the bills for treatment of any other expense that may occur and sometimes left feeling hopeless as our friends and families suffer. Thus we are all affected.

Children do not experience mental problems. Actually it is the second leading cost of death among young people between the ages of 15-29 years old. Half of these affected person start showing signs before or by the age of 14.

 People with mental health disorders find it stressful holding down a job. If we invest in our health and treatment this too can be shunned as with effective treatment person with mental disorders are just as productive as anyone else. Encouraging this will be equivalent to lower medical cost and social burden costs through increased productivity.

Persons diagnosed with a medical disorder can be due to:

  • Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Self-care and therapy however can aid in their process of recovery.

One of the major barrier in receiving effective treatment, as only half of these affected persons receive treatment, is the social stigma that is associated with mental health. 3 It will be a long shot for us to say we will eradicate this social taboo on mental health but family and friend support is an important factor in getting us the treatment and services we need for our mental health issues. Merely reaching out to someone and providing moral support helps a lot. Learning and sharing the facts and refraining from labeling persons by their mental health disorder also helps. But most importantly treating them with respects as you would anyone else.

This mental health week I vow to promote the social and emotional well-being of young people via shared knowledge. I strongly believe that this will increase productivity, enhance educational outcomes, strengthen our economy, lower crime rate and health care expenses and most importantly improve our quality of life and family life.

Therefore it is imperative for us to focus on the mental health needs of women and have them met in an effort to end suicide and increase our longevity because suicide is committed by people just like you and I.






MY NARRATIVE: Amanda/27. Barbados

So, are you open about your status?

Yes and no.

Could you please explain a bit?

Depends on the circumstance. My policies is don’t ask don’t tell unless it’s necessary.

In that case what name would you like to use for its publication?

You can use my middle name Amanda.

What’s your age? And when did you got infected?

I’m 27, I was diagnosed at 15.

How did you find out, and what was your first reaction?

I cried then, I went crazy. I wanted to kill my boyfriend, then I got depressed and over eat because I thought I was going soon get skinny and die.

What things changed because of HIV?

Some things change for the better because I took my goal more seriously, because I thought I didn’t have much time left and there’s so much I wanted to do. But also I had a lot of setback in terms of finding work and studying because of doctor’s appointments and when meds I was getting sick all the time. And I often neglect myself because it’s hard enough trying to prove yourself as a woman. Much less a woman living with HIV. Even though everyone around doesn’t know, I often feel like I have to make up for having HIV.

Have you faced any stigma and/or discrimination? Can you share a specific experience?

Most of the stigma and discrimination I experienced I was a bystander when people were saying thing about those “aids people” or those “sick people” not knowing I’m one of them. Some people in the social services department view “us” as just sitting around waiting for handouts. The most hurtful is when you get close to someone and you tell them and they run from you, or stop speaking to you, or bathe in Clorox because you touched. Or even worse, you’re in a relationship and your significant other wants you to do things to them sexually (eg. oral sex) but they don’t want to because of “your condition”. I’ve had people saying, medical professionals included, “why would you want to punish yourself and an innocent child by having a baby”.  Then the family members who fuss too much, and then those who don’t care at all, and it seem they trying to kill you faster.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m hardworking person, a student, a business woman, a sister, a daughter, a mom, even though I’ve never given birth. I’m kind loving sharing but at times very guarded and withdrawn because life changes when people know.

How are you engage in the HIV response?

I’ve been in too many support group meetings. I’ve often volunteer at the food bank giving out hampers or hosting at the Christmas parties for people living with HIV. I did massage this year for women living with HIV, and there health care providers free of cost for Valentine’s Day. And visit other women whom I know they’re positive, if they become hospitalized and offer an encouraging word or just stay and keep them accompanied. When I’m working at the hospital I trying my best to get assigned to the patients who are like men make sure they have an extra special day and give them information on how best to talk with their doctors and who to take care of themselves when they come out.

What do you dream of?

I want to have my own preventative healthcare center where people living with HIV get special preference. I dream of one day getting married and having the kids I wanted before this happened. I also dream of the day when the fear associated with HIV is like diabetics it something you don’t want to have because of the end results, but if you do, so what. Deal with it, and move on. I believe that the HIV response should be more focused on living with it and the stigma and discrimination; suicides, violence depression, substance abuse and loneliness.

What would you say about your sexuality?

When I was first diagnosed it went away. For almost a year I felt dirty, like some had raped me again, but this time I gave them permission. But I came back stronger than ever, but I keep it under wraps because regular relationships get complicated after sex. Discontent relationships are even worse. And almost all of the guys I met who are positive, are either gay, bisexual, way older than me, or have serious issues (eg. unemployed, uneducated, no ambitions, crazy jealous and abusive).

How do you see HIV in your country?

I see it as a hustle. For some people some people try to get what they can get in the name of helping us poor people. But the bigger heads aren’t concerned about the individual, once condoms and medicine are selling. Who cares about the physical and emotional torment and ostracism we received because we were diagnosed with something. Funny enough in my country our population is very sexually active, but they pretend like there not, until there’s a problem.

MY NARRATIVE: R. Micky/30. Jamaica

“I am 30 years old, and got infected three years ago, at age of 27. I found out by doing a random HIV test and I was astonished, I felt as if my life was over. I became more conscience of what I consumed, especially alcohol, also started having protected sex. Because of HIV, I became more self-driven and determine to become someone.

I became pregnant last year and all was good with the nurses and doctors until I gave birth. The nurse who delivered me had an attitude, at one point, when she came to do my vitals she asked me to placed my hands on my vagina and to don’t touch the equipment. This past march, my baby died. She was premature and have hypertension.

HIV in Jamaica has come a far way and it can only get better. There are lots of support groups and treatment sites here. I attend the chares clinic and I can truly say they are the best service, with you, the patient, in mind, with a friendly and non-discriminating staff.

I am a positive and strong woman, I believe that I can and will make a difference in this life. Failure is not a part of my vocabulary. My dream is to make my mom proud before her life on earth has ended. I intend to open my own private school and daycare.”

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