As the world observed World AIDS Day yesterday (December 1), some experts in the field are saying that since COVID-19 surfaced, more persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are inquiring about antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Executive Director, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), Kandasi Levermore, told JIS News that the organisation, which she spearheads, has “seen more interest in people wanting to know their HIV status”.
“In fact, we have seen where some persons who are already aware of their HIV status, with the new information regarding COVID-19, come out and are now on treatment,” Mrs. Levermore said.
Executive Director, Jamaican Network of Seropositives (JN+), Jumoke Patrick, told JIS News that they are also “noticing more people coming to care” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For us, even though we don’t provide treatment directly at JN+, what we find is that people are turning up at our offices wanting to know how they can get on treatment. When we have sessions with persons living with HIV who were never on treatment, they are now interested to go on treatment because of the fear of COVID-19 and the impact that it may have on them as people who are not on treatment,” Mr. Patrick told JIS News.
“I would not be able to give you the number [of new persons seeking ART treatment], but when we have our meetings with our other partners who provide testing and treatment, they also are reporting that there is an increase in their coverage, an increase in the number of persons accessing services and coming to care,” he added.
Additionally, Caribbean Regional Director for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Dr. Kevin Harvey, said his organisation has recognised an increase in some areas they serve.
“We see an average of about 50 new cases a year, and that seems to have been a continuous trend. We’ve seen an increase in the number of persons coming in for testing for HIV and other STIs,” Dr. Harvey told JIS News.
“Right now, we have about 260 positive persons that we manage, but the number in terms of other STIs [such as] syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have been increasing in terms of testing,” he added.
As part of their commemoration activities for World AIDS Day, and with the pandemic occurring, to safeguard the lives of others and prevent its spread these three organisations are hosting events in virtual spaces.
The JASL will be hosting a “virtual fair and drive-by [free public] testing” at Sovereign on the Boulevard in Kingston, Great House Pharmacy’s parking lot in St. Ann and Scotiabank’s parking lot at Fairview Shopping Centre in St. James.
They will also host a virtual Candlelight Vigil under the theme ‘Global solidarity; shared responsibility’ on JASL’s social media platforms to remember the lives lost due to HIV/AIDS.
JN+ will broadcast events on Television Jamaica, Suncity Radio, Daytime Live, Nationwide and CVM Live.
The AHF will host a virtual information session under the theme ‘AIDS, the other pandemic’. They also lit their Kingston offices in red last evening in recognition of World AIDS Day.
World AIDS Day is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, recognising those who continue to work to end AIDS and pausing to remember those who died because of this disease.