Haitian AIDS Official Declares Haiti's Epidemic Under Control; Grassroots Activists Balk
July 23, 2010
Dr. Jean William Pape, director of GHESKIO, Haiti's research and training center for HIV/AIDS, surprised Haitian activists today by announcing at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna that "the HIV epidemic is being controlled in Haiti."
"The government didn't have control of the epidemic prior to the earthquake, so it's very strange that now, with the situation such a mess, with people going back and forth and no one knowing where to go for help, with families being destroyed, to say that the situation is under control," said Erick Louis, coordinator at GIPA, an AIDS service organization in Port-au-Prince. Louis has been in Vienna for the last week, advocating on behalf of PHAP+, a Haitian grassroots coalition calling on the government to form a national post-earthquake AIDS plan.
The president of PHAP+, Esther Boucicault, made headlines this week when she landed a meeting with President Bill Clinton, who serves as the UN special envoy to Haiti, and then criticized top AIDS officials for failing to include any HIV-positive people on the conference's only high-profile panel on Haiti. The panel included Pape, who apologized for the oversight.
Pape made the announcement that the epidemic is "being controlled" during a meeting today about HIV in the Caribbean, one that included no discussion of Haiti until Housing Works CEO Charles King raised the issue during a question and answer session.
Since 1995, Haiti has reduced its HIV prevalence rate from near 6 percent to just above 2 percent. But the country's lack of stable housing and food -- key components of AIDS treatment and care -- threatens to reverse that progress.
"There are hundreds of encampments now," said Boucicault. "Women are trading sex for food vouchers. There is a lack of prevention programs, a lack of condom distribution, a lack of protection against sexual violence. I'm stunned by Dr. Pape's statement."
Organizations Highlight Plight of HIV-Positive Haitians, Call for Donors to Support "Whole of Society" Health System Strengthening
This article was provided by Housing Works. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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