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Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma and Discrimination
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U.S. News

AIDS Study Spurs Haitian Outrage

October 31, 2007

Some members of the Haitian community are angry and concerned following publication of a new study indicating that HIV first arrived in the United States by 1969 via infected Haitian immigrants.

"People are going crazy," said Dr. Laurinus Pierre, executive director of the Center for Haitian Studies in Miami's Little Haiti. From the US epidemic's earliest days, Pierre said he has had to fight the tendency to blame Haitians for having HIV/AIDS. At the time, he said, some researchers pinned AIDS on the "four H's" -- homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs, and heroin addicts.

The new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences relied on a genetic analysis of HIV in frozen blood samples from early AIDS patients, including about 20 Haitian patients at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital from as early as 1979. The study concludes that HIV was brought to Haiti by Haitians who had worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the African country won independence from Belgium in 1960.

"This does a disservice to the Haitian community, who feel they already went through this 20 years ago," said Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard University professor of medical anthropology and a founder of Partners in Health, an international research and aid group fighting HIV/AIDS in Haiti. "This is very slender evidence on which to base such a grand claim."

"I don't think it is very helpful," said Dr, Jeffrey Laurence, a professor of medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

"I want to stress that this has nothing to do with race or sex or color of skin," said Dr. Arthur Pitchenik, a University of Miami Medical School professor of medicine and an author of the study who saw many of the earliest Haitian AIDS patients at Jackson. "It's not whether you're Haitian or homosexual. It's the high-risk behavior you engage in: Whether you have unprotected sex, whether you're a drug user sharing needles."

Back to other news for October 2007

Adapted from:
Miami Herald
10.31.2007; Fred Tasker; Jacqueline Charles

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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