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28894: Hermantin(News)A rural child, 11, finds hope with powerful AIDS drugs (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Mon, Aug. 14, 2006

A rural child, 11, finds hope with powerful AIDS drugs
An AIDS treatment team tracked down a Haitian youngster born with HIV -- so he could be one of the first children in his province to get the right medication.

OUTSIDE LES CAYES, HAITI - The 11-year-old boy lives out on a long dirt road and across a creek in southwest Haiti. Small enough to pass for 8, he was born with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His mother is already dead from the condition.

After his last blood test at the AIDS treatment center at the hospital in Les Cayes, 40 minutes away, doctors saw that his immune system was crashing. On his next visit, they planned to make him one of the first children in his province to be put on powerful AIDS drugs.

But he missed his appointment -- his father did not have $3 for bus fare to the hospital. The next day, the treatment center's staff sent Marcus Sainte Rose to find the boy.

Sainte Rose is a field worker on the AIDS treatment team whose own life was saved when he found AIDS care in 2004 at Gheskio, the Port-au-Prince clinic that oversees the Les Cayes treatment center.

With a driver from the center, he heads for the boy's village. There are no street names there, much less house numbers, so he asks some men by the side of the road where he can find the boy's house, posing without much conviction as a ''friend in the neighborhood, coming to say hi'' so as not to reveal the boy's health status.

Eventually, Sainte Rose finds the boy at his aunt's home. He asks the boy how he feels. The answer is an inaudible whisper.

Sainte Rose says the boy needs to go see the doctor. His aunt combs his hair and takes him to another room to change his shirt.

''I want you to look good,'' the aunt says.

''That shirt looks ugly,'' the boy says.

''Just wear it,'' the aunt says.

The boy emerges, wearing a T-shirt that says ``Wilson.''

The boy sits wide-eyed and silent on the ride to the hospital.

Sainte Rose takes him to see the pediatrician, who is not part of the AIDS team. The pediatrician is misinformed; he tells the boy that he cannot go on the AIDS drugs yet. The boy is nearly sent home empty-handed, but a doctor on the AIDS team learns of the confusion and intervenes.

Forms are filled out. A doctor discusses the drug regimen with the boy's father.

The father is given the medicine and money for the bus. He takes the boy home