JASL empowers HIV-positive woman to own home, businessSunday, December 05, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
The joy of helping needy HIV patients to earn a living is the reason Nilfia Hazel Anderson loves her job at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL).
Hazel Anderson, who is JASL's regional programme manager in St Ann, recently shared how her team was able to positively impact the life of a woman living with HIV and reduce her vulnerability.
Hazel Anderson said the woman who was diagnosed with HIV 14 years ago was a single mother of two and had several psychological needs which affected her ability to effectively provide for her family. The woman also had low educational qualification, as she only did studies at the primary level.
“There was no social support from family and she had housing issues because at the time she was staying with a friend. She was also a victim of violence and discrimination from her community,” said Hazel Anderson who was speaking at the organisation's HIV treatment public forum held at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston recently.
“For those who are HIV positive, we realised that it (poverty) can affect their ability to adhere to antiretroviral drugs and to become virally suppressed. We realised that there is something we needed to do outside of giving out medication and encouraging our clients to take their medication,” she added.
In an effort to improve the woman's psychological and economic needs, Hazel Anderson said the woman was enrolled in the organisation's life skills session, then advanced to the entrepreneurial programme for six weeks in 2019. The woman also received help from Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) to improve her academic abilities.
JASL's entreprenuership programme was developed to provide opportunities for clients by using their education and skills to function in society, especially in instances where there are limited chances of gaining employment.
With the skills and funding the client received, she was able to build a small grocery shop in that same year. Hazel Anderson said personal growth was also evident after the client started her business.
“There was a positive attitude in her self-esteem – how she showed up to clinic and there was confidence. Normally, she would walk with her head down, now she has her head held high. Since she started her business too, not once has she come to the clinic and asked for bus fare. I really think that's powerful,” Hazel Anderson said.
The woman, now virally suppressed, has since moved into her own home and expanded her business. The business expansion saw the addition of grille to the shop, a deep freezer to sell meat, more shelves for food items.
“Why she is such a success for us, is that she had primary level education but after each entrepreneurship training session, you would see her going to the staff, asking for assistance with her assignments. She would be the only person who stayed back and go to the teachers. She did not allow her limitations of not being able to read, hinder her from progressing. She believed in herself and she had a support team, so she achieved success.”