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5359: Fwd: Haiti Continues to Struggle with AIDS Epidemic (fwd)

From: radman <resist@best.com>

>Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 21:36:25 -0500 (CDT)
>From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
>Subject: HEALTH-HAITI: Country Continues to Struggle with AIDS Epidemic
>        Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
>           Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
>                       *** 21-Oct-0* ***
>Title: HEALTH-HAITI: Country Continues to Struggle with AIDS Epidemic
>By Ives Marie Chanel
>Port-au-Prince, Oct 20 (IPS) - Though precise statistics do not
>yet exist on how the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
>has ravaged Haiti, public education campaigns are believed to be
>making a positive effect on people's behaviour.
>Many who consider themselves healthy are no longer wary of casual
>contact with people with AIDS. And ever since a support group for
>people with AIDS was established two years ago, sufferers themselves
>are less likely to view their disease as a shameful secret.
>During this period as well, the authorities and some non- governmental
>organisations (NGOs) have launched public education campaigns to
>improve the public's understanding of the disease.
>Haiti has one of the highest rates of infection in the western
>hemisphere.  More than 73 percent of the population lives below
>the poverty line, and estimates are that more than 300,000 people
>are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
>Even though public education campaigns on the subject have become
>more intensive, the infection rate has not been staunched. In a
>country of 8.2 million where almost 70 percent of the population
>is illiterate, a fully informed public is not an easy goal.
>New measures are frequently announced by health officials. Some
>are still in the planning stages, while others are recognised to
>be little more than politicking.
>Some of those ill with AIDS are still waiting for promised government
>subsidies or for the authorities to provide them with the medicines
>which will stem the progression of the disease.
>Their frequent criticism of the lack of an official AIDS policy or
>any assistance for AIDS-sufferers represents a thorn in the
>government's side.
>At the beginning of August, Michaelle Amedee Gedeon, the Haitian
>Minister of Health, announced that the government was trying to
>eliminate taxes on medications for people with AIDS.
>A Haitian with AIDS needs between 12,000 and 13,000 dollars a year
>to buy medicine. This is more than 16 times the per capita income
>of the average citizen, and two-thirds that of a member of parliament.
>Given that the government lacks the financial wherewithal to provide
>the help to people with AIDS offered in more economically-developed
>countries, the minister is emphasising prevention in her remarks
>to the public, especially the youth. ''The best-case scenario would
>be to simply stop the spread of the virus,'' she said.
>The Minister of Health is also working on an anti-retroviral therapy
>for pregnant women which will lessen the chances of transmitting
>the disease to new-borns.
>Monday, the Haitian health minister announced that there would very
>soon be clinical trials for a vaccine against the strain of AIDS
>found in Haiti. The first batch of vaccine will be available this
>week and administered to healthy individuals who have volunteered
>for the study.
>The trial will last for some 24 months and is being run in conjunction
>with the Vanderbilt AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Unit of the Vanderbilt
>University in the United States.
>Since the Vanderbilt AIDS vaccine programme was established in
>1987, nearly 500 people have participated in tests that it has
>conducted. It is one of 10 university-based AIDS vaccine programmes
>in the United States.
>The vaccine uses the canary pox virus, which cannot reproduce in
>mammals, to carry inactive HIV genes in an effort to help the body
>develop defences against HIV infection. Side effects in previous
>studies have been limited to mild fever and muscle soreness where
>the vaccine was injected.
>''Haiti's participation with other countries in the region, such
>as Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil, in these clinical trials is a
>demonstration of our solidarity in stopping the epidemic, which
>more and more affects the poorest of the poor,'' the minister said.
>Minister Gedeon also noted that positive results could lead to an
>extension of the trials.
>The health minister also called on the developed world to demonstrate
>its solidarity in the struggle against AIDS by freeing poor countries
>from the crushing burden of their foreign debt. Such a gesture,
>she noted, would mean that the governments of such countries would
>have a little more to spend on the AIDS pandemic.
>There were other joint anti-AIDS actions launched in August by
>Haitian groups in conjunction with counterparts in neighbouring
>Dominican Republic.
>The leaders of the two major anti-AIDS organisations in each country,
>the Association of National Solidarity (ASON) and the Network of
>HIV- positive Dominicans (REDOVIH+) met at the end of August to
>work together on island-wide projects. The two countries share the
>Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
>The meeting came in the aftermath of an international conference
>on women and HIV/AIDS in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican
>Republic, organised by the Women's Health Collective (CMS).
>During the Aug. 9 conference, whose theme was 'Women and HIV/AIDS
>in the Caribbean', Haitians and Dominicans acknowledged the need
>to work together to reduce the rate of infection in the two countries,
>according to Marionne Benoit, the programme co-ordinator for the
>Dominican and Haitian networks.
>Public education and prevention campaigns will be launched in the
>island's most affected regions with the support of other trans-border
>institutions. A network will also be established among the two
>associations' members to encourage more communication among
>HIV-positive people in the two countries.
>The leaders of the Dominican group acknowledged that they had much
>to learn from the experiences of Haitians. The Dominican government
>has not yet developed any national AIDS policy, said the secretary
>general of ASON, who was invited to talk about his experiences
>fighting AIDS in Haiti.
>Comparative data on the progression of the epidemic around the
>world was published at the end of 1999 by the Joint United Nations
>Programme on AIDs (UNAIDS). The estimated rate of infection among
>adults in the Dominican Republic is about three percent. Figures
>in the same report estimate infection on the Haitian side of the
>border to be about twice as high, or six percent.