The Jamaica Family Planning Association is one of a very few family planning organizations in Jamaica. There are two clinics that are currently operating in St. Ann’s Bay and Kingston. FamPlan provides family planning services to people living in the communities the clinics are located for a small cost. Some of these services include birth control, STI testing, counseling, pregnancy test, pap smears, immunizations etc. In addition to these services that take place in the clinics, FamPlan also provides services through health fairs that take place all over the country. Health fairs are pop up clinics that are usually requested by a specific organization looking to provide services to members of a community or group. FamPlan usually participates by providing Pap smears, HIV and Syphilis test, as well as pre and post counseling for free.
This month I was able to attend my first health fair. My role was to register people prior to them receiving the services. The registration process consists of getting contact information from patients as well as taking their blood pressure and recording their current weight. Once they’re registered, they are sent to have pre counseling with a trained councilor, which is where they discuss their sexual history and any concerns they might have prior to receiving the test. Once the pre counseling is over, they then receive the test or service they requested. If they are receiving an HIV/Syphilis test, they do the rapid test which produces results within 15 minutes. If they are receiving a pap smear, they will not receive their results until a later date. Once the HIV/Syphilis test is complete, the patient will receive their results during post counseling. In addition to testing/pre and post counseling, we also give away condoms and do demonstrations for those who are interested.
Though limited, my experience with health fairs has been an amazing one. I have only attended two in my time here in Jamaica but I was able to observe and participate in something great. In all the work that I do advocating for the Sexual and Reproductive Health rights for all Jamaicans, I am very aware of how Sexually Transmitted Infections have impacted so many people here. The fact that the services we provide are not usually free and for most, unaffordable, it is refreshing to see so many people enthusiastically attend the health fairs to utilize the free services. Until I was able to attend the health fairs, my interactions with people has been limited, and getting to see first-hand how many people are in need of the services and actually use them really made a difference in how I approach my work. I was able to see the people FamPlan is advocating on behalf of rather than just reading about them. Getting out from behind the computer screen and in the field allowed me to get real life understanding and provided context to the work I am doing and I am grateful for that experience.