Thursday, November 11, 2021 -Kingston, Jamaica – In observation of its 30th anniversary, the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), has a packed a month-long schedule of activities slated to run from November 1 to December 10. The organisation which opened its doors in November 1991, remains Jamaica’s largest and longest-serving institution which focuses on Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) and human rights.
The calendar of activities is set to include a silent protest on November 25 to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This will include a small motorcade starting in Spanish Town to Portmore, to Half Way Tree, and will end in downtown Kingston. The motorcade will involve vehicles with messages calling for an end to violence against women and young girls.
To highlight the advancement of HIV medicine, JASL says it will be hosting a virtual public forum on November 30. This will include various presentations from medical professionals on how best to offer treatment and care services to people living with HIV. Persons living with HIV will also use the opportunity to share their experiences.
December 1, which will be observed as World AIDS Day, will see the JASL hosting a virtual fair during the day and its signature annual event, The Candle Light Vigil. The Vigil, which has been held for the past 30 years, is in remembrance of those who died from AIDS-related illness and are affected by HIV and AIDS in Jamaica.
The celebrations will also include the opening of the Life’s Work Pharmacy on December 2. The pharmacy which is owned and managed by JASL will be located at its Kingston office. The anniversary celebrations are set to peak on December 3 with the unveiling of the ‘JASL Mural’. The mural will form part of the art walk in downtown Kingston on Waterlane. The mural will serve as a symbol of the resilience of the organisation and people living with and affected by HIV.
Speaking at a church service hosted at the Universal Centre of Truth for Better Living last Sunday, Andrea Chinsee, secretary of JASL’s Board of Directors, shared that the company has come a far way over its three-decade tenure. She expressed that because of the stigma associated with their work, they have faced tremendous obstacles in executing their mandate as an organisation.
“Over the 30 years, JASL has become a household name but this was far from the case when we started. As we became more prominent, landlords would refuse to lease their properties because of the stigma associated with the nature of work and the vulnerable groups we serve. This caused JASL to be homeless but never hopeless,” she said.
In 2018, the organisation was able to purchase a property at 3 Hendon Drive. They currently serve over 900 persons living with HIV and AIDS through its clinics in Kingston, St James, and St Ann.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, clients who lost their jobs and were unable to provide for themselves and their families were provided with care packages and financial assistance.
Kandasi Walton-Levermore, who has served as executive director at JASL for the last nine years, shared that the mandate of JASL has always been to provide a safe place for the maginalised and vulnerable.
“We have remained passionate for the last 3 decades because we know that they are over 32,000 Jamaicans who benefit from the work that we do. At JASL, we see it as our duty to ensure policy-makers leave a space at the table for people living with HIV at all times. Accomplishments for us is solely measured by the number of lives we would have been able to positively impact,” she stressed.