Sat | Sep 23, 2023

HIV-positive woman seeks help to cover medical bills

Published:Saturday | October 22, 2022 | 12:08 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
A view inside an MRI Unit at a local public hospital.
A view inside an MRI Unit at a local public hospital.

A young woman who was infected with HIV after being raped more than two decades ago is seeking assistance to cover her medical bills after a recent bout of illness cast uncertainty over her life and depleted her savings.

The woman, who told The Gleaner that she has made peace with her situation and has diligently been taking her medication, saw her world turned upside-down again after being hospitalised for several weeks after experiencing pain in the head and neck.

She said that she was left unconscious in the first week, but when she regained consciousness, her sight was gone.

“Persons were even in front of me talking to me and I couldn't see them, and I'm like, 'Mi nah see yuh. Why mi nah see yuh?' and no matter how mi rub di eye and dig di eye, mi nah see nothing. Same way so, I know that something was wrong,” she said.

The woman said that although she regained her sight a few days after, her vision has been extremely blurry since.

Doctors have referred her to do a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and other tests, but after racking up more $150,000 in medical bills, she cannot afford any other expense.

She further lamented that she has gone on sick leave on multiple occasions and her savings have been wiped out.

“I have to be there making phone calls here, there and everywhere, pull everything, every money that I have, from my account, ” she said.

“I need help. I don't know what is going to happen with the eyes as yet, but since I've been going there (doctor), I have to be doing different tests and I have to pay out of my pocket, and I don't know what else I'll have to do. I just want my sight back to be able to provide for myself again,” she said.

When The Gleaner reached out to the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), Executive Director Kandasi Walton-Levermore said her organisation stands willing to help.

“If they need investigation done and their diagnostics done, we have paid for MRI, CT scan, biopsies, sending samples overseas, we have done all of that to ensure that the clients issues are managed,” she said.

But the woman said that although she has sought help from various local NGOs which offer support to people living with HIV/AIDS, she does not believe that they have appreciated the urgency of her situation.

A recent report by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) showed that 32,617 people in Jamaica are living with HIV/AIDS.

Currently, Walton-Levermore said that the JASL serves 975 people living with HIV/AIDS and ensures that each client is taken care of holistically. This approach, she said, has resulted in the JASL reporting an 85 per cent viral suppression rate in its clients.

“If a client is not doing well, we're going to try and find out what is happening with the client, medically or clinically, socially and psychologically, and there are interventions that we offer for the client to be able to manage,” she said.

“If it is a case where the client has another illness, whether it's a comorbidity or whatever issue that they're facing, we understand that it is difficult for the client to manage their HIV if the other situation is not managed,” she added.

Walton-Levermore said that if persons are referred by JASL to specialist services in the public system and it is taking too long, the organisation tries to see how best it can connect them to a faster service and support them in accessing same.

How you can help

If you are able to provide any assistance, call (876) 806-2702.