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November 25, 2014
HIV community animator seeking assistance to continue programme

With the abrupt closure of the Caribbean HIV AIDS Alliance (CHAA) in St Vincent and the Grenadines, there are over 300 persons living with HIV and AIDS with no place to turn for the social and psychological support they had been receiving from the group.

Sydney Joseph, who had been a community animator with the organization for the {{more}}past four years, says that he has the tools to give support to these persons, but he is running out of resources.

Joseph, known to his peers as “Pumpkin,” told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that he is hoping for the opportunity to continue working with individuals; however, he is in need of funding to continue his programme called the Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention programme, which he says can teach individuals how to measure their CD4 and viral load, in order to suppress the virus.

“I have been working to bring HIV to its lowest level, because for the last six months or more, I brought back 300 or more persons working along with the clinical staff at the HIV clinic, which I must give them; praise for allowing and assisting me to work along with them, so I was able to bring back to the clinic several persons, including male and female, plus children, who were ignoring treatment, but I bring them back on treatment.

“After the closure of the Alliance in October, it leave me alone with all my bills hanging over my head and 300 HIV clients to still deal with, because it is a work that is never done.

“I don’t have the resources, but I still have to deal with the people good, but all now all these clients left alone unless they run into me and still I continue to do my work voluntarily.”

Joseph, who works as a security guard at the Kingstown Vegetable Market, says that his talents are being under used in his current job, and he hopes that the relevant authorities would see his passion and partner with him to so he could continue working with the people under his care.

“With this recommendation I have for CHAA, I am hoping that the government would see that the market is not the place for me,” Joseph stated.

“In the central market, where they have me doing security, is not benefitting the country for the skills that I have. I spoke with the Minister of Social Welfare and he said he will take it to Cabinet, but I still waiting on word, but at the same time I waiting, the health of the clients are declining,” he added.

A letter of recommendation issued by CHAA described Joseph as an arduous worker in his campaign against stigma and discrimination, and courageous in his advocacy and compassionate service to the people living with HIV community.

Joseph, who was diagnosed with HIV more than 10 years ago, was also described as a model of professionalism, diligent and determined.

“Throughout Mr Joseph’s time at CHAA, he was given the opportunity to develop a cadre of skills through CHAA’s various training initiatives that would benefit your organization,” the letter also stated.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday evening, confirmed that community animators such as Joseph play an important role in the care and treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

She said while the Government provides treatment, testing and nutritional support for persons living with HIV/AIDS, animators are vital, because they are “insiders” who are trusted by HIV infected persons and regarded as persons who can empathize and bond with them.

“The insider perspective is extremely important,” Keizer-Beache said.

“They encourage compliance, healthy lifestyles and safe practices among affected communities,” she added.

SEARCHLIGHT had partnered with Joseph on a number of awareness projects that he had embarked on in the past.

With World AIDS Day just one week away, Joseph urged persons who are not certain about their HIV status to get tested, and called for persons who have tested positive to get treatment, or continue to be treated for the virus.

“I want them to seek the PHDP plan from me that I have as a tool that would assist them to suppress the virus,” Joseph added.(JJ)