Wednesday 23 September, 2020

Coronavirus: A 'sense of urgency' among people living with HIV

iStock photo of HIV therapy pills.

iStock photo of HIV therapy pills.

People living with HIV (PLHIV) appear to be taking the threat of the coronavirus, COVID-19, very seriously.

Whether it's fear or sheer uncertainty, Dr Jennifer Brown-Tomlinson, medical director at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), revealed that PLHIV have been turning up to JASL clinics in droves to start treatment. 

“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 of urgency to take control of their health and that is something we welcome," Brown-Tomlinson said.

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 the novel coronavirus. It is imperative that individuals with underlying health conditions ensure that their immune system is fully functional to protect against the effects of COVID-19.

Dr Brown-Tomlinson  is concerned for those PLHIV 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,” Brown-Tomlinson said. 

Kandasi Levermore, executive director of JASL, urged organisations that provide treatment and care for people living with HIV "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." Levermore said. 

Medical experts say that 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. 

"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!"Jerome Burke, communications co-ordinator of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life
 (JASL), said.

Currently, there are 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jamaica and, by all indications, this will continue to rise. Likewise, the HIV count is currently 32, 617 and may increase.

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