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29579: Hermantin(Editorial)Orphans of AIDS (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Orphans of AIDS
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
November 26, 2006
ISSUE: The AIDS epidemic wreaks havoc on Haiti's most vulnerable -- the young.
Haiti seems far from our shores and consciences, but its ills, as well as those
of other nations in the hemisphere, are bound to impact South Florida. One of
the greatest tests before the Caribbean basin, and our own community, is the
ongoing scourge of AIDS.
Eight million people live in Haiti; half of them are under age 14 and too many
of these youngsters are without parents. Due to poverty, disease and violence,
15 percent of Haiti's children are orphans, the highest percentage in the
hemisphere and one of the highest in the world. The AIDS virus is a key factor.
An estimated 250,000 Haitian youngsters have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Haiti is at a crossroads, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel eloquently and
dramatically documents in the Aids Orphans series that starts today. Its
salvation, of course, will depend upon the resolve of its people. However,
engagement from the developed world is crucial, especially from the United
States, if our neighboring, fledgling democracy stands any chance at survival
Unfortunately, Haiti, and its neighbor the Dominican Republic, remains the
poster child for a part of the world that has been ravaged by AIDS. The
Caribbean region is the second most affected by AIDS, after sub-Sahara Africa,
and roughly 80 percent of the HIV cases in the Caribbean can be found on
While there has been progress in battling the epidemic, the trends for the
region remain worrisome.
Imagine a region without its brightest professionals, its best thinkers or its
most gifted artists. Think of nations void of able workers, specifically the
managers, maids, waiters, bartenders and help-staff that are vital to the
Caribbean's economic engine -- tourism.
The potential for continued instability is great, and should be unacceptable so
close to our shores.
The AIDS Orphans four-part series describes the epidemic's cruel impact through
the eyes of the island nation's most vulnerable group -- Haiti's children. The
series is the culmination of a five-year effort by the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel to examine the AIDS crisis in South Florida and the Caribbean.
The Kaiser Foundation, a recognized clearinghouse of AIDS research, trends and
information, awarded Sun-Sentinel writer Tim Collie and staff photographer Mike
Stocker a Kaiser Media Mini-Fellowship in Health to support the project's
This installment is poignant. It's not easy reading the stories or viewing the
photos of the troubled youngsters who have been ostracized and shunned by
society simply because their parents suffered from a devastating disease.
Fitz Junior is a 15-year-old who lives on the streets of Port-au-Prince. By
day, he washes cars and makes dice out of dog bones. At night, he says it's
worse: "They abuse me, the older kids, the men. They burn you with matches when
you sleep, melt plastic containers and pour them on you while you're sleeping."
Still there is hope, thanks largely to a few special good Samaritans and some
inspirational kids. Roodine Dieujuste is an 11-year-old who lived on the
streets of Lachapelle, Haiti. After sitting in the streets alone for weeks, she
caught the eye of a missionary's wife, who took her home and started an
There is some good news, some positive developments, in Haiti. For starters,
Haitians living with the AIDS virus can now obtain the new generation of
medicines to treat the disease. President René Préval and his government are
making strides and the nation's economy is showing signs of life. More
importantly, the number of AIDS cases has plateaued, giving health officials
signs of hope.
Haiti, however, can't do it alone. A renewed effort based on individual giving
would help immensely. So will existing initiatives to spur economic development
and provide AIDS relief. Having the U.S. Congress approve the so-called Hero
Act to bolster manufacturing employment on the island, and granting temporary
protected status to thousands of hard-working Haitians in the United States
would also help.
The Caribbean can be a model in the battle against AIDS; the opportunity to
accomplish that is now.
BOTTOM LINE: Renewed engagement can turn the tide against AIDS in the
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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