People living with HIV (PLHIV) will need to take COVID-19 (coronavirus) very seriously! Like a ‘warna ooman’ the Ministry of Health and Wellness has been preaching that those with serious health conditions and people with compromised immune systems, like those living with HIV, remain most at risk of severe illness from coronavirus. In light of this, it is imperative that individuals with underlying health conditions ensure that their immune system is fully functional to protect against the effects of the dreaded coronavirus.
Since COVID-19 “touch dung inna di airport” Jamaica has been in a state of frenzy. Perhaps only the threat of a hurricane has caused this level of panic. What is so ‘special’ about the coronavirus that we are literally locking shops and stocking up on groceries like a category 5 hurricane is about to hit? It is true that coronavirus is more infectious than the regular flu and if there was ever a time for PLHIV to act, it is now!
Dr Jennifer Brown-Tomlinson, Medical Director at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) is concerned for those who have stopped or have not been on treatment, “People living with HIV who have not been on treatment will need to start treatment now. A compromised immune system may not be able to function at its optimum to fight against coronavirus. People on Antiretroviral therapy (ART) must take their medication everyday.”
Kandasi Levermore, Executive Director of JASL shared that “Organizations that provide treatment and care for people living with HIV will need to continue serving their clients during these trying times. JASL’s doors are still open, because if there was ever time that we need to continue serving our clients, it is now.”
Whether its fear or sheer uncertainty Dr Brown Tomlinson claims that PLHIV have been turning up to JASL clinics to start treatment. Brown-Tomlinson explains “Normally we would have to be calling and encouraging persons to come in for treatment, now we have a few persons calling us and coming in to get on treatment. There is a sense urgency to take control of their health and that is something we welcome”
Currently, there are nineteen (19) confirmed cases of coronavirus in Jamaica and by all indications this will continue to rise. Likewise, the HIV count is currently 32, 617 and may increase. Similarly, to coronavirus, HIV is not a death sentence. The prescription to either of these viruses cannot be paranoia or fear, instead it has to be adherence to the recommended treatment by the doctor and care team.
The ultimate goal for PLHIV is to reach viral suppression. This occurs when they remain on their medication and the virus in the blood gets so low, that it is undetectable. PLHIV who are on their medication, with a suppressed viral load are less likely to have a compromised immune system, are generally healthy and will stand a fighting chance against the coronavirus.
For more information contact:
Jamaica AIDS Support for Life
Tel: (876) 566-8792 / 925-0021
Email: [email protected]