Category Archives: July 2011
By: Andrea Downer, Journalist
Kingston, Jamaica. July 29, 2011- The recent 31% decline in the number of pediatric deaths in Jamaican children announced by Minister of Health, Rudyard Spencer is not a surprise to Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert, a pediatrician with considerable experience in the care of HIV positive children and their mothers in Jamaica.
Dr. Evans-Gilbert, who is based at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Jamaica, says the current overall decline is the result of sustained efforts by persons involved in the HIV fight in Jamaica from as early as the 1990s. She also credits the increased availability and reduced cost of anti-retrovirals for treatment of HIV in children for the positive development.
“It’s a decline we have been seeing since the early days at Bustamante Hospital children when antiretrovirals first became available to those who could afford it,” she stated.
“As the drug became universally accessible across the island we saw at first a decline in hospital stay then fewer admissions. The children’s nutrition improved, they didn’t miss school and less and less children died. Even those who had advanced HIV that affected their brain and slowed their development started walking!” she told Panos Caribbean.
Mr. Spencer made the announcement recently at the launch of Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica.
According to Dr. Evans-Gilbert, when she began her medical career at the Kingston Bustamante Hospital in Kingston in the 1990s, HIV treatment and care of children was done in a very ad hoc way. Although anti-retrovirals for the treatment of HIV had become available by then, very few persons in Jamaica could afford the drug which was very expensive.
“In those days there was no HIV medication available in Jamaica to give to babies born HIV positive. The most we could do for the babies was treat the infections brought on by the HIV virus, manage their nutrition and try to make them as comfortable as we could,” she explained.
“But there was really nothing we could do and we would tell this to the parents – although not immediately. At that time, those HIV positive babies would not live beyond one year. We referred to them as ‘rapid progressers’ who would develop AIDS very quickly and die shortly after being diagnosed with HIV.”
“Back then, HIV testing was not a part of ante-natal care and so we would only find out that the mothers were HIV positive when they would take their sick babies in for treatment and the babies were diagnosed with HIV,” she stated.
“All of the early challenges in pediatric HIV care and subsequent progress that have been made have been captured in publications over the years by a team of pediatricians across the island, which I am a part of,” Dr. Evans-Gilbert disclosed.
“In the early days of HIV pediatric care in Jamaica, myself and the other doctors who are part of the now island wide team, shared the same frustration with the challenges we faced and had the same passion to see the children survive,” she explained
“We formed the Jamaica Paediatric Perinatal and Adolescents HIV/AIDS Group headed by Professor Celia Christie. The group now leads about eleven paediatric HIV clinics across the island, which were initially launched as outreach clinics in 2003 but are now stand alone clinics. We all still interact with each other as a group and share experiences and best practices. The success of that model, based on research, resulted in an island-wide establishment of standardised care for mothers and their children,” she continued.
“In a study on deaths at Cornwall regional hospital due to HIV in children we found antiretroviral was the only factor that determined survival in children who were orphaned, had AIDS or had a rapid progression of the disease,” she continued.
According to Dr. Evans-Gilbert, the Ministry of Health has an aggressive Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme that has been yielding significant results.
“Over the last five years at The Cornwall Regional Hospital in Western Jamaica, of 75 HIV infected children, only seven have died and those who survived were more likely to have an improved immune system and suppression of the virus due to antiretrovirals according to lab studies,” she said.
“Over that same five-year period about 400 babies were born to mothers with HIV but only about 3 percent of those babies became HIV infected. Those who died had rapidly progressing disease in infancy and were started on antiretrovirals late. But that doesn’t happen anymore. Now that mothers are identified in pregnancy, more babies have a chance of survival when they are enrolled in the prevention of mother to child transmission programme and receive preventative treatment,” she explained.
“It is uncommon for new born babies to be infected and when this happens it is usually because part of the preventative programme has been compromised. As soon as babies are identified in early infancy as positive, life saving antiretroviral agents are started when they are still healthy preventing any progression of the disease,” she continued.
“Compared to the early days of the epidemic when I watched children die due to lack of treatment the mothers and families now have hope. Our team is encouraged to keep pushing until we have less and less newly infected babies and a healthy childhood and longer survival for those who are already infected along with their infected parents.” (End29/07/2011)
Andrea Downer – This Thursday, July 21st, CVM Television, one of Panos Caribbean’s media partners will be highlighting the work the organisation has done in environment over the past 25 years as part of the organisations 25 year anniversary celebrations which will be observed from June 2011 – June 2012.
The organisation will be featured on CVM Television once every three months until June 2012 and this Thursday’s feature & interview segment will be broadcast LIVE on CVM LIVE at 7 for the first half hour of the one-hour programme from 7:00-7:30pm.
Executive Director of Panos Caribbean, Jan Voordouw and Regional Director, Media, Community and Environment at Panos Caribbean, Indi McLymont-Lafayette will both be interviewed tomorrow night. A representative of the Mocho Community Development Association (MCDA) and an artiste who participates in Panos’ Voices for Climate Change Education project which it implements in conjunction with MCDA and other environment partners will also be interviewed about their experiences working with Panos projects and how they and their communities and career respectively have benefited.
Panos Caribbean Panos Marks 25 Years of Development Work in the Caribbean on June 1, 2011. The organisation, which works through media in the Caribbean to raise awareness on issues affecting marginalized persons with the aim of having those issues addressed, will observe this milestone with a variety of activities between JUNE 2011-JUNE 2012.
Panos is focussing on one of our programme areas each quarter: our Environment programme from June – August, Children & Youth from September – November, Health (HIV) from December- February and Gender from March – June 2012.
For twenty-five years Panos has been working with the media and other communicators to foster debate on under-reported, misrepresented or misunderstood development issues. We believe that only by including the voices and views of those most affected by these issues – usually the poorest and most marginalised people in society – will lasting solutions be found.
Excerpts from these two videos produced by Panos Caribbean will also be aired on CVM during the programme.
Jamaican HIV+ Prisoners Appeal for Help – Panos Study on HIV Treatment, Prevention & Care in Jamaican Prisons Support Their Claims
By: Andrea Downer - Three years ago, Panos Caribbean broke the silence surrounding sex among male prisoners in Jamaica and the associated sexual and reproductive health issues in an investigative study that was researched and written by Panos Caribbean‘s journalist and consultant Andrea Downer.
The book: No Sex or Condoms Here: HIV Prevention, Treatment & Care in Jamaican Prisons won several awards including the first place in print in the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) regional media awards as well as first place in the Pan-American Health organisation’s (PAHO) national and regional awards in 2008.
In May 2011 Panos Caribbean awarded a media fellowship to Advanced Media Productions for them to produce a short video based on the issues explored in the book. The idea was to re-ignite public debate on the very relevant issue and hopefully spark action by the relevant authorities.
On Sunday, July 15, 2011 an article written by Janice Budd published in the Jamaica Observer screamed: “Left to die – HIV-positive inmates say they are neglected in prison” The burning issue was once again front and centre. According to Janice, inmates from the Tower Street Corrections facility in downtown Kingston had contacted her newsroom and begged them to get word out about their plight.
“I am living with HIV, you understand, but I don’t want to die inside here,” was the impassioned plea from an inmate to the Sunday Observer from behind the massive masonry that constitutes the walls of the maximum-security St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, the country’s old capital.
“I did not bring this disease on myself and now I have to live wid it. I don’t want to die as yet,” The inmate was quoted as saying, with more than a hint of desperation resonating in his soft voice.
“Prisoner living with HIV hopes is just from the hospital, to the morgue, to their grave,” he said, adding that it’s easy to feel that there is no point to living.
“Quite often, when you si dem drive in di ambulance, drive in and drive out, is a prisoner who is HIV-positive or have full-blown AIDS they taking to hospital, and by time dem tek dem out there, dem dead, because they not paying us no attention at all,” the inmate continued.
The 2008 Panos study was quoted extensively in the article. Two media houses contacted Panos Caribbean and invited a representative to speak on the matter. Online Content Manager, Andrea Downer was interviewed by Jamaican radio station Bess FM and local television station, TVJ on it’s morning programme: Smile Jamaica.
Pictorial Highlights – Caribbean Coastal Area Mgmnt Foundation’s Int’l Fisherman’s Day Symposium, Expo and Regatta
On July 2, 2011, Panos Caribbean teamed up with the the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAMF) to host a Fisherman’s Day Symposium, Expo and Regatta at the Old Harbour Bay Beach in St. Catherine. The event was also held in partnership with the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council, the Jamaica Fishermen’s Co-op (JFCU) and the Old Harbour Bay Community Development Association (OHBCDA).
Artistes from Panos Caribbean’s VOICES for Climate Change Education Project participated in the day’s activities which included a celebrity cook off and community concert to wrap up the day’s events.
Ingrid Parchment, Executive Director, C-CAM feels that the day which included several activities, was a major success.
“The aim of honoring dedicated and hardworking fisher folk was certainly met. We made sure to highlight fisherman from the Portland Cottage Community, Reuben Weir, who was born in 1931 and who still go out to fish,” she stated.
Mayor of Spanish Town, Andrew Wheatley, Councillor for Old Harbour South; Lloyd Grant and Donna Parchment-Brown of the Dispute Resolution Foundation. also participated in the celebrity cook off which was won by VOICES artiste, Adrian Campbell for his tasty preparation of the Lion Fish, Second place went to Donna Parchment-Brown and Pam Hall, also of the Voices for Climate Change Education project came in third.
A number of organizations also mounted booths and offered services to persons who attended the event.
“We were also able to incorporate other services to patrons like the use of the Registrar General Department, National AIDS Committee, National Environmental Protection Agency, Jamaica Fisherman’s Co-op Credit Union and the Churches Co-op Credit Union and other organisations which were also well received,” Parchment continued.
Pictorial highlights from the days activities are below.
By Adelle Roopchand, Journalist
Port of Spain, Trinidad. July 15, 2011 - Fourteen blind youths from across the Caribbean are currently in Trinidad and Tobago participating in the Torres Foundation developmental camp featuring training by scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States and other noted trainers.
Scientist Dr. Craig Moore, Space Shuttle Commander Hoot Gibson and Dan Oates of NASA will discuss Space Science Careers and Technology for the Blind.
The camp entitled “Camp Can Do 2011” began in Tobago on Saturday, July 16 and will run until next Saturday, July 23, 2011. The week-long camp will also focus on Media and Communications and Financial Management.
Blind Veteran Jamaican broadcaster/producer, Patrick LaFayette and Trinidad based Panos Caribbean journalist/producer, Adelle Roopchand will focus on the basic Journalism and media training.
The young people – hailing from Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua, and St. Lucia – will also be trained in basic money management by the Trinidad born-US based financial expert Allison Questel.
Also RBC Royal Bank, Scarborough has invited the campers into the branch to talk about careers in banking.
“The Torres Foundation is pleased and excited with the line up of innovative and groundbreaking workshops that have been scheduled. I know that these sessions will make a significant difference in the lives of these young people,” said Ancil Torres Camp Director and President of the Torres Foundation.
The Torres Foundation’s mission is to promote the educational, cultural, and social development of blind people in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean in an effort to bring about independence, career opportunities, and overall life enhancement.
Since July 2009, the Torres Foundation has been hosting Camp Can do to provide blind youths with positive and motivating experiences that will enhance their personal growth and development with a series of educational workshops and special activities. It will be held at the Sunshine Holiday Apartments, Bon Accord in Tobago.
“Camp Can Do seeks to focus campers on what they can do in spite of blindness and away from what they cannot do because they are blind,” said Torres.
The Campers will also be treated to an array of social and sporting activities including: Fishing, nature walk excursions, horseback riding and swimming. They will be given the opportunity to develop self advocacy skills where Campers will take on the roles of leaders and assert themselves in dealing with their disability issues.
Camp Can Do has received significant funding from RBC Royal Bank andPerkins School for the Blind. The camp takes place at Sunshine Holiday Apartments guest house in Bon Accord and Trinizuela College. (End14-07-12).
For further information please contact: Kashmir Mitchell at (868) 623-0940or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Adelle Roopchand, Media Relations Officer at (868) 389-8040.