Wed | May 22, 2019

JASL a 'one-stop shop' for HIV testing and treatment

Published:Tuesday | November 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Kandasi Levermore (left), executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, speaks about the organisation’s expanded facility yesterday. Paying keen attention are Hiromasa Yamazaki (centre), Japanese ambassador to Jamaica; Canon Garth Minott (right); and Conroy Wilson (second right), executive director of ASHE.

Thanks to the government of Japan and the United States Agency for International Develop-ment, Jamaicans in need of HIV treatment or those who want to get tested for the virus can now do so at the expanded Jamaica AIDS Support for Life in St Andrew.

Through a US$99,738 (J$12 million) grant, the facility can now efficiently care for persons living with HIV, especially those in vulnerable groups. The upgrade of the complex comes just a few years after the non-profit organisation was officeless, noted Executive Director Kandasi Levermore.

"This space has a medical facility. It was expanded from one nurse station and doctor's office. We have now put in a laboratory and a pharmacy. In the lab, we will be doing HIV testing. We will now be going into social enterprise, by using the pharmacy to generate income to support the operations," she told The Gleaner.

 

Stigma-free environment

 

"This is good, because they are going to receive treatment in a stigma-free and comfortable environment. The idea is that the building will be a one-stop shop for our clients. They are coming for prevention services or care services."

The organisation manages more than 600 clients with HIV and another 3,500 who don't have the virus, but use its services.

"We cater to those most vulnerable. We work with gay men, sex workers, children living with HIV, and the deaf community," said Levermore.

In full support of the facility's expansion is regional programme manager for CariFLAGS, Dane Lewis, who would like every person living with HIV in Jamaica to be virally suppressed.

"Data has shown that once people are virally suppressed, they cannot pass on the virus. The aim is to get everybody who is positive virally suppressed, and that is only possible if persons get on medication and remain consistent. Those persons will have access to medication here. We should now begin to see HIV like how we see diabetes - as something that is treatable," said Lewis, a former head of local advocacy group J-FLAG.

For confidentiality purposes, the facility's address cannot be published. However, the administrators may be reached at 876-925-0021.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com