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Jamaican Network of Seropositives organises vaccination drive

Published:Monday | December 6, 2021 | 12:06 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
People wait for the turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine at JN+ vaccination drive and health fair on Saturday, December 4.
People wait for the turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine at JN+ vaccination drive and health fair on Saturday, December 4.
A Jamaica AIDS Support for Life booth at JN+ vaccination drive and health fair at Trevennion Park Road.
A Jamaica AIDS Support for Life booth at JN+ vaccination drive and health fair at Trevennion Park Road.
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The Jamaican Network of Seropositives (JN+) organised a vaccination drive and health fair last Saturday at Trevennion Park Road. According to Executive Director of JN+ Jumoke Patrick, the health fair and vaccination drive was a part of World AIDS Day activities, which is observed on December 1 every year.

“The theme for World AIDS Day is ‘End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics’, so we wanted to piggyback on both HIV, which is a pandemic, and COVID-19 as a pandemic, and how can we support the community … so we thought of [organising] a health fair,” Patrick said.

The fair, which according to Patrick served a dual purpose by integrating vaccination and raising awareness about the issues people living with HIV face, contributed to addressing the stigma and discrimination among the public. At the site, members of the public learnt more about the virus and they also had access to free HIV testing, along with condom distribution.

Patrick underscored the need for persons, especially those who are HIV-positive, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He revealed that from a snap survey conducted in the summer, nearly three out of four persons in the community expressed vaccine hesitancy.

“Currently, we have over 1,000 members of people living with HIV and we did a rapid survey over two weeks, and three weeks just to measure people’s intention to take the COVID-19 vaccine. From that we realised that 73 per cent of respondents were hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine. So, we had to do something,” he said.

These initiatives included the hosting of webinars, in-person meetings and efforts geared towards achieving greater sensitisation.

Persons who are HIV-positive and who are not virally suppressed have a higher chance of being impacted by COVID-19. Getting vaccinated offers an added layer of protection.

JN+ recommends that HIV-positive persons should ensure to take their medication daily and stay healthy.

At the vaccination drive, at least 40 persons turned up before midday. Marie Edwards, who spoke with The Gleaner after getting her vaccine, said she endorsed the vaccination drive. She believes that the incentives offered represent a positive addition to the site. “I just made up my mind fully to take the vaccine … I think this (vaccination drive) is a good idea.”

JN+ offered KFC and Burger King food vouchers, along with care packages, as incentives at the vaccination site

The organisation, which was established in 1996, aims to provide care and support for people living with HIV.