The HIV/ AIDS Ministry in the Diocese of Mandeville is led by Sr. Hellen Kisolo, A.S.N. She serves HIV/AIDS patients in the three civil parishes of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth. These persons are referred to her by government social workers who are placed into contact with HIV/AIDS affected persons when they go to the public clinics and hospitals. Persons are also referred to her when they come for treatment at any of the five clinics run by the Diocese of Mandeville.
Sr. Hellen leads support group meeting for the adult HIV/AIDS patients each Thursday except for the first Thursday of the month. They meet one week in Santa Cruz, one week in Manchester and one week in Clarendon. There are approximately 200 adults who attend the meetings: 50 from St. Elizabeth, 100 from Clarendon and 50 from Manchester. There are also 20 teenagers from the combined parishes who attend a meeting on the last Friday of each month in Manchester. Often, persons will attend a meeting that is in a different parish from their home, in order to avoid meeting persons who might recognize them. Many do not attend regularly and some invited persons do not attend at all.
At the support group meetings, participants are encouraged to share their problems and challenges with the group. At each meeting, a different topic is discussed. Patients are taught how to take their medication and encouraged to take it regularly. They are taught about various infections and how to manage them. The challenges of discrimination are discussed and persons are advised how to handle this and other problems and difficulties that they encounter. Sometimes Sr. Hellen holds a workshop where they are taught how to make straw hats and bags.
A Passionist volunteer attends all the support meetings to assist Sr. Hellen. Three (3) government counsellors and four (4) government social workers as well as two volunteers, one of whom is HIV positive, make themselves available at the support group meetings. They provide one-one-one counselling and support. Sometimes, the government social workers will arrange and pay for transportation for the teenagers to attend meetings.
Sr. Hellen makes Home Visits to persons every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Many persons refuse home visits because their families or neighbours are not aware of their condition. When she visits persons who reside in Manchester, she is sometimes able to see two or three persons per day. However, the distance to homes in Clarendon and St. Elizabeth often allow her to make only one home visit for the day.
Although the government provides AIDS/HIV medication, persons often develop other infections and illnesses which require other types of medication. Sometimes she will send them to one of our Diocesan clinics to source these items. If they are not available there, she will sometimes purchase medication from her own money. Sr. Hellen occasionally receives donations of food and clothing which she distributes to those in need. She also attempts to obtain nutritious foods to support a healthy diet for those who are unable to afford it.