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Fired HIV positive persons turning to sex work

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

Tuesday, November 26, 2013    

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THE good news of being able to live longer despite being infected with HIV/AIDS is threatening to turn sour for some persons, many of whom have lost jobs and are now turning to selling their bodies in order to survive.

According to Ainsley Reid, co-ordinator for the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV (GIPA), the vast majority of such persons cannot even look forward to a pension from the National Insurance Scheme when they get to the retirement age.

"I remember when I lost my job, I was given back the few dollars I had saved towards my pension, so you know that done. The challenge also is when you just lose your job and you get that amount; you have to pay bills and in a few months that's done. No wonder so many persons living with HIV may have considered sex work," Reid told editors and reporters at yesterday's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

"That doesn't speak well for the HIV response, but you have some men and women who see sex work as an alternative, because they feel they are not as employable as when they were HIV negative," he added.

Asked whether living longer was considered a plus among HIV positive persons, he said the mountain of issues faced presented interesting complications.

"Certainly, in terms of HIV and ageing, there are issues, and I speak of myself and a few of my colleagues. I was diagnosed when I was 28, now I am 50. Of course I have some conditions as a result of living longer and taking treatment and so on. So I have things such as vertigo, high cholesterol, problems with my liver to some extent, and so on..." Reid said.

"We don't always think of HIV and the other chronic conditions that you have as a result of living longer, so put not working in that context and it's a bigger problem, so as you get older you face more issues. Also as you stay longer on treatment there is the need for greater medical follow-ups. If I have problems where I go for treatment and care then it complicates the matter even more," he pointed out.

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