Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), in observation of its 30th anniversary, has a packed schedule of activities slated to run from November 1 to December 10, 2021. The organization 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.
Speaking at a church service hosted at the Univeral Centre of Truth for Better Living on Sunday, November 7, Andrea Chinsee, Secretary of JASL’s Board of Directors shared “ 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”
In 2018, the organization was able to purchase its own property which is now located at 3 Hendon Drive, and currently serves 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 resulting in them not being able to provide for themselves and their families were provided with care packages and financial assistance.
Mrs. Kandasi Walton-Levermore, who has served as Executive Director at JASL for the last 9 years shared that, the mandate of JASL has always been to provide a safe place for the maginalized and vulnerable. She expressed “We have remained passionate for the last 3 decades because we know that they are over 32,000 Jamaicans 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 amount of lives we would have been able to positively impact.’
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 Down Town 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 will be hosting a virtual public forum on November 30th. This will include various presentations from medical professionals on how best to offer treatment and care services to people living with HIV and persons living with HIV themselves sharing their experience taking the anti-retroviral drug. The following day, December 1, will mark World AIDS Day. JASL is set to host a virtual fair during the day and will end the evening with its signature annual event, The Candle Light Vigil. The Vigil has been held for the past 30 years to remember the lives of persons who died from AIDS-related illness and are affected by HIV and AIDS in Jamaica.
The celebration will also be marked by a major event, which is the opening of the Life’s Work Pharmacy to the public on December 2. The pharmacy which is owned and managed by JASL will be located at its Kingston office. The anniversary celebration will peak on December 3 with the unveiling of the ‘JASL Mural’. The mural will form a part of the art walk in Down Town Kingston on Waterlane. The mural will serve as a symbol of the resilience of the organization and people living with and affected by HIV.
The organization is looking forward to another 30 years as it continues to serve the Jamaican people with love, action and support.