People living with lupus need help and attention

BY Noel Mitchell

Thursday, January 31, 2019

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Even though Jamaica has one the highest rates of lupus worldwide, we're not the only country that is affected or afflicted by this terrible but treatable disease. So there's no excuse for our young women in particular to continue to lose their lives all over the country to it.

Although it affects mostly women, men are not immune. So my heart goes out to the family and loved ones of 2014 Miss Jamaica Universe contest finalist, 29-year-old Zandrea Bailey and others who have succumbed to this most treatable disease.

In a 2015 interview, according to distinguished rheumatologist Dr Desiree Tulloch-Reid, president of the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica, the prevalence of lupus on the island is as high as one in 250 people. She further stated that the clinic that she ran at the Kingston Public Hospital, out of 2,000 patients, 40 per cent had lupus. These statistics were alarming, to say the least. So it is about time we bring full awareness to it.

It is a gender issue as well, because it affects mostly women. What is so bothersome, as stated, is the fact that it is rather difficult to be diagnosed in Jamaica because the doctors do not have access to the medical equipment that is needed to do the test. None is on the island, test samples have to be sent overseas. Is this some kind of joke in this day and age? Where is the talk about medical tourism? Where is the Ministry of Health on this? The country shouldn't have to rely on some marathon to buy these equipment. What's next? A GoFundMe page?

It should be mandatory that the Government provide these medical equipment for every major hospital in the country, as well as dialysis machines, especially at institutions such as Kingston Public Hospital, University Hospital of the West Indies, and Cornwall Regional Hospital, as they more than likely have a cadre of trained technicians to troubleshoot, maintain and repair them.

These equipment saves lives. Jamaica is blessed with a lot of international goodwill. So getting help in acquiring these medical equipment shouldn't be that difficult. We are just an hour-and-a-half away from our neighbour and friend the United States of America, which can easily supply these machines. But others such as Canada, China, England, Germany, to name a few, could supply these equipment and, if asked, I'm sure would be glad to help in purchasing them, because they too have their own lupus population and are aware of the challenges. Perhaps even our neighbour and friend Cuba, with its advanced medical programme, might be able to help in this regard.

What irks me is the fact that successive governments continue to waste and misspend the country's meagre resources; the senseless and insensitive oil hedge comes readily to mind. And a medical condition like this is allowed to exist with little or no concern or regard for all those who are affected. It should be right up there on the country's medical agenda.

It is also disclosed that medication for this ailment could cost up to $100,000 per month, which is not affordable to the poor or middle-income people in the country. This is something that the Government should also look into. Also, maybe the local doctors could include lupus in their medical marijuana research.

The ministries of health and gender affairs should get together and come up with some tangible ideas on how to urgently deal with this matter.

Noel Mitchell lives in Westchester, New York, USA. Send comments to the Observer or

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