Living with HIV
I was 27 years old when I found out I was HIV positive.
“I remember one night I had nightmares of someone running me down and calling me names. I said to myself ‘Why don’t I just end it? I don’t know if I can live with this thing.’ Persons in my communities said things about me. They called me names. All of that was going through my head. I said to myself ‘I don’t want to live anymore.’ There were these demons inside me and they would attack me, especially at nights. I would be up to midnight each night, so afraid that I would just go to sleep and die. I would sit outside and drink, I drank a lot of rum. I cried daily. I cried and cried. What was really hard for me was I didn’t want my mom to come to where I was living because people in the community would say things to her. I thought if I disclosed to my mom, she might just die.”
“After meeting Eve for Life, all of that changed. [Oral suggested she talk to them]. I was always timid, I didn’t want to go to the doctor. Never, ever. I would go to the health centre in St. Ann’s Bay (far away from her community) to see the doctor. I had a nice doctor and she was kind to me, but she was always busy, so I fell into depression. The pills weren’t working, I was still having nightmares. One night I cut my wrists. I sat in the tub watching them bleed. I heard a voice in my head saying ‘Why? There’s so much life has to offer. I got up and wrapped my wrists. I didn’t say anything to anybody.’”
[Debbie was sent to see a psychiatrist who advised she double her medications]. “I wasn’t taking them the way I should. They made me feel in and out, so I stopped taking them. I threw them away. When I remembered about my son, it just hit me. I said ‘What am I really doing to myself?’ God sent Eve for Life when I was going through all of that.”
“I didn’t know what to expect when I went to meet Eve for Life. I was just told they would help me. They asked me what I knew about reproductive health and HIV. When they said “HIV”, I sighed. Auntie Joy said ‘You can talk to me’ and Auntie Pat said ‘You can do it’. They reminded me that there are people out there who really care. After that I started meeting people who were sharing their stories. I was so motivated. I wouldn’t cry anymore.”
“Now I accept myself because I have to do that in order to survive. The only way to take care of myself is to accept myself. Every day I just motivate myself because I’m living. I have now been 12 years without medication and I am doing well. I didn’t know I would reach here.”
“I am passionate about helping persons going through their situations. I take them into my home and talk to them. I have been there and I know what some of them are going through. When the hope comes, it seems life returns to the body. I just want to give that back to other persons. I want to give back life.”
“I accept each day as a challenge, and when I do that, I find the solution.”
United Nations: ‘Bring Paedophiles and Enablers to Book!’
KINGSTON, 18 March 2015 – The United Nations (UN) in Jamaica is urging the nation to take a zero tolerance approach to the crisis of paedophiles preying on children.
UN agencies working on the issue – UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UNAIDS, UN Women and UNESCO -said the recent cases reported by the media point to the long-standing and deeply alarming issue of sexual abuse facing children, and adolescent girls in particular, in Jamaica.
Key statistics underscore the horrific scale of the problem:
· In 2013, the total number of sexual abuse cases reported to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) was 3,386. Of these, 92% were girls, and more than half of the cases were carnal abuse (sex with children under 16 years of age).
· According to data from the National Reproductive Health Survey 2008, 34 percent of adolescent girls reported that their first sexual encounter was coerced, that is their first experience of sexual intercourse was an act of rape.
· According to the latest national data, 1 in every 5 five sexually active Jamaican girls, aged 15-19 years, has reported being forced to have sex.
· Recent research indicates that only 1 in 10 adult Jamaicans report cases of child abuse, including sexual abuse, despite knowing about the abuse.
“Efforts to prevent and reduce teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and sexual violence against children are severely compromised when individuals and communities fail to report cases of abuse and when predators are not prosecuted with urgency,” said Arun Kashyap, the UN Resident Coordinator.
Kashyap also said pointing fingers at victims is unacceptable. “Sex with children is always a form of abuse. The children are never to blame.”
In addition to supporting various government initiatives (including development of policies and legislation) to protect the rights of girls, the UN agencies have, since last year, been supporting a new initiative by non-governmental organization EVE for Life to address the challenges of sexual violence within select communities in St. Ann, St. James and Westmoreland.
The programme, called “Nuh Guh Deh”, will focus on urging these communities to take specific actions to prevent the covering up of sexual activities with children and to hold perpetrators accountable. “Nuh Guh Deh” was officially launched on November 25, 2014 in recognition of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as part of the UN Agencies “UNITE” campaign, which aims to address the global pandemic of violence against women and girls. On that occasion UN Agencies in Jamaica gave a public commitment to the “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign, which aims to increase awareness about the long term physical, emotional, financial, health and social consequences of sexual abuse of young girls and the links to HIV. It is expected that a key outcome will be to mobilise Jamaicans to report acts of violence against girls.
“Nuh Guh Deh” emerged from EVE for Life’s extensive experience working with young survivors of sexual violence, many of whom became pregnant and also contracted HIV as a result of this violence. The support provided has empowered and enabled many survivors to break free of the violence and abuse. The UN is confident that this programme will help mobilise Jamaicans to report on sexual violence against girls.
Jamaica on Track to End Mother-Child Transmission of HIV
Kingston, Jamaica, Feb 9, 2015 — Jamaica is on track to be among the first countries in the world to reach the targets for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The country’s situation will be confirmed later this month, once the Ministry of Health submits its country report to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
UNAIDS acknowledged this major progress following a meeting with Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, in Kingston last week. Minister Ferguson said “Jamaica has made good progress especially in the areas of the prevention of mother to child transmission and the availability and use if anti-retroviral drugs. The Government is moving towards ownership of the HIV Programme and has put in place several initiatives towards this including the integration of the National HIV/STI Programme with the National Family Planning Board to create one sexual reproductive health authority, the purchase of ARVs through GOJ budget and undertaking a sustainability study of the national programme.” Dr. Ferguson added that “under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Harvey, the current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Jamaica has come a far way in preventing the transmission of HIV to babies, from 10% HIV transmission rate in 2004 to less than 2% by 2012.”
He acknowledged the significant contribution made by the Jamaica Paediatric, Perinatal and Adolescent HIV/AIDS (JaPPAAIDS) Program under the leadership of Professor Celia Christie, as well as the support from the Technical Oversight Committee for EMTCT which receives support from international partners; UNAIDS, UNICEF and PAHO.
Jamaica’s success in lowering the rate of HIV transmission in children to below 2% is being attributed to Government’s investments, improved collaboration between national, regional and international agencies, as well as partnerships involving the public health sector, private doctors, hospitals and laboratories. This progress in preventing HIV among children joins other gains of the Jamaica AIDS response including a 43% decline in AIDS-related deaths over the last decade and a 25% reduction in new HIV infections. Jamaica has increasingly demonstrated interest through its leadership and investments in the programme to prevent HIV transmission to babies.
“This is a remarkable achievement; it shows leadership and commitment to ensure that no Jamaican child is born HIV positive,” said Dr. Ernest Massiah, Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team.
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