Treat today for people living with sickle cell disease in Westmoreland; St James tomorrow

PEOPLE living with sickle cell disease in Westmoreland are in line for additional support today when the Shaks Hope Foundation stages a treat for them at the Black River Hospital.

This is the first leg of a two-day treat being staged by the foundation. The second treat will be held tomorrow at the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Montego Bay, St James.

Director of the Shaks Hope Foundation Andrea Hall said the treats are geared towards giving support and lifting the spirits of those who live with the sickle cell disease.

“We want to lift spirits and support warriors living with sickle cell. [We] also spread awareness and encourage people to know their status,” said Hall.

She added that there will be strict adherence to the current COVID-19 protocols during the treats which are slated to run from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm each day.

According to Hall, the Shaks Hope Foundation was the brainchild of her daughter Shakira Martin, a former Miss Universe Jamaica (2011), who lost her battle to the sickle cell disease in 2016, when she was 30 years old.

There are approximately 18,000 people living with the sickle cell disease in Jamaica, and Hall argued that there is still a long way to go to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that many of these people face.

She said that the foundation is committed to advancing the cause of people living with sickle cell.

“Some of the challenges we face as an organisation is how best to support warriors, especially those who are poor and sick. The prejudice is overwhelming. Sickle cell patients are viewed as drug seekers,” lamented Hall.

“We continue to share stories, seek ways to brighten the day of sickle cell patients and bring awareness to resources that are available to them, and to assist them in living a full and productive life.

“We also need volunteers and corporate sponsors to give support with medication costs and mental health issues. These are a great concern,” Hall added.

In the meantime, Krissy Sanderson, one of the Jamaicans living with sickle cell disease, has also called on the Government to do more to bring awareness and give support to people living with the disease.

“It is good to know that someone like Ms Hall is carrying on the legacy of her daughter, Ms Shakira Martin, who showed sickle cell warriors that they can become anything they want to be,” said Sanderson.

“I wish that the Government of Jamaica would do more to educate people about the disease. There are times, we as sickle cell warriors have been discriminated against; they don’t know the pain we feel,” added Sanderson.

In February, the Cabinet gave approval for the exemption of fees at public pharmacies for all individuals with sickle cell disease who access care at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) Sickle Cell Unit.

This was designed to end the practice where people who visited the UHWI Sickle Cell Unit were treated like private patients, and had to pay for their medication at private pharmacies.

The Government has estimated that it will cost approximately $36 million to introduce the change, with funding coming from the pharmaceutical budget of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

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