Individuals and organisations are being encouraged to support persons affected by Lupus, as many find it overwhelming to survive.
Making the call, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Hon. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, said there is a need for awareness in raising the profile for “this vulnerable group”.
“Managing a disease like Lupus can be overwhelming and exhausting, and the work of advocacy plays a vital role in ensuring that systems are in place to give support – connecting with the right information and care to better their outcomes,” the State Minister said, while delivering the keynote address at a ceremony to mark World Lupus Day on May 10, at Emancipation Park in St. Andrew.
Lupus is a severe and unpredictable autoimmune disease that can cause life-threatening damage to any organ in the body. An estimated five million people worldwide have the ailment.
Jamaica is considered to have a high prevalence of the disease, with an estimated 6,000 persons affected. Ninety per cent of those affected are young women, but individuals of any gender or age can have the illness.
The disease can damage any organ or tissue from the skin or joints to the heart or kidneys.
The State Minister pointed out that while there is no cure for Lupus, in most cases it can be managed successfully through early diagnosis and expert medical care.
She argued that given the “debilitating effects” of the illness, “there is need for greater awareness and understanding as well as education and services to those people living with the disease”.
“The Government of Jamaica is committed to universal access to healthcare, that is, providing to all a fair right to health services. Pharmaceuticals are among the services to which we have succeeded in giving Jamaicans enhanced access,” the State Minister said, noting that Jamaicans now have the benefit of 105 fully operational Drug-Serv locations (up from 17 in 2018).
She also pointed out that there are 49 public-private pharmacy partnerships, all managed by the National Health Fund (NHF), offering services to the public to manage chronic illnesses such as Lupus and enabling “more Jamaicans to access free drugs under an expanded network and a more efficient distribution system”.
Mrs. Cuthbert-Flynn said the Ministry continues to advance in improving the outcomes of people affected by Lupus, with the provision of specialist healthcare and vital drugs, free of cost through the public healthcare system, and drugs available in the private system, subsidised by the NHF.
The event was organised by the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica (LFJ).