JÉRÉMIE, HAITI – A health care worker wearing a stethoscope around his neck sits in his office at a clinic in Jérémie, a small town in southwestern Haiti, on an overcast and rainy day. Declining to be named because of patient confidentiality requirements here, he recounts patients who have died of AIDS, leaving orphans behind.
He first talks about Wanitha, who died of AIDS at age 49.
“She left five children behind,” he says. “The children’s father had died some time ago, also of AIDS.”
The clinic had provided her with extra food and a hygiene kit, but her health continued to decline until she died.
“Wanitha was the sole support of her family,” says the worker wearing a brown shirt, blue pants and black shoes. “That is how HIV/AIDS makes Haiti’s misery even worse.”
Tears well up in his eyes as he talks about how HIV and AIDS are ravaging his country, both in the city as well as in the countryside. His voice changes, and he pauses before continuing.
He pulls out a patient’s chart and puts it on his desk. Then, he pulls out a second chart. He stands up and then sits down again.
He says that HIV and AIDS are a crisis for a vulnerable country like Haiti. Orphans of parents who die from AIDS are especially vulnerable.
“With the misery and poverty that exists in the country, the parents abdicate their responsibility for their children,” he says. “That’s the reason girls go into prostitution.”
He says that people living with HIV need to act more responsibly.
“When a guy has some money, he sleeps with every young girl, even when he knows he is infected,” he says.
He mentions one man in particular who was financially well-off and knew that he was HIV-positive.
“This guy had a wife and maybe two, three or four women on the side,” he says with sadness in his voice. “I would like to know where that will end. Isn’t it a crime that should be brought before a judge?”
He recounts an incident from 2011.
“Three pretty women from Jérémie who knew they were HIV-positive, and people in Jérémie know them, they came with three tents and set them up on the beach,” he says. “They attracted people. Young guys went in and out of the tents.”
He says authorities in Jérémie received word about the operation.
“Thank God, hospital personnel along with the civil protection agents and the police came out to the beach, tore up the tents and took them to jail,” he says.
This health care worker says that it’s important that the Ministry of Public Health, the mayor’s office, the Department of Civil Protection and the police track people living with HIV who are trying to infect others.
“These people who are infected tend to move to [an]other area once people in their area know of their status,” he says. “They then take partners in their new environment.”