Thursday, February 11, 2010

Concern for more AIDS cases in Haiti

One of the many fears for still recovering Haiti is a resurgence of AIDS. Infection of HIV-AIDS amongst the Haiti population was actually at a low percentage before the earthquake. Health advocates fear that AIDS will flourish in the coming years as the health system in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince needs to be rebuilt.

From the website AFRO, we read this interview with Charles King of the AIDS and homeless combating group called Housing Works. Writer George Barnette asked King about his recent visit to Haiti to look over AIDS prevention facilities after the earthquake.

“I was taken to one of the larger AIDS clinics in Port-Au-Prince which had been pancaked,” said King. “At that clinic, every single staff person and every single patient who was in the building was killed.”

Treating victims of the earthquake is now the No. 1 priority, which leaves patients with other needs in the cold, a fact King found out first hand, much to his dismay.

“In Saint-Marc, which is about a 90-minute drive north of [Port-au-Prince], we actually met with the head of the local hospital and he had plenty of ARVs,” he said. “The hospital was so flooded with trauma patients that they couldn’t enroll any new patients, including people who were fleeing [Port-au-Prince].”

The United Nations estimates that there were about 120,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, with the bulk of the infections among the 15-to-49-year-old population, which had an infection orate of 2.2 percent. That rate is down drastically from 5.5 percent within the same age group in 1996.

King said the decline was not fueled by outside forces, but by the Haitian people themselves.

“There has been a growing society movement within Haiti itself to combat the epidemic,” said King. “I attended a conference in Jacmel, by the national association of people living with AIDS and HIV in Haiti, that issued a powerful declaration that the country and global forces [need to] address the epidemic. That was actually followed the day after the conference with thousands of people marching through the streets asking for human rights for all people living with HIV and AIDS.”

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