So, Haiti is a country that has been hard hit not just but hurricanes, but also by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. The Haitian Creole acronym is SIDA.
I never really thought about AIDS in Haiti til I was looking online to see if there was anything on there about Sheepfold School besides its bootleg looking site (that I created….sorry, Sheepfold…) And I found a book called Zombie Curse that actually referenced Fr. Luc and told an anecdote of a woman dying of AIDS dropping her child off at Sheepfold, seeing the child for the last time. It was a pretty sad story, obviously, and it made Sheepfold seem as real as it ever had.
You can read the passage here. (Scroll back a few pages for the author’s description of “Pere” Luc and the orphanage)
Until then, I hadn’t really thought about AIDS orphans in Haiti, let alone at Sheepfold School. I knew it was an orphanage, but I thought it was mainly abandoned kids or kids whose parents left them there for a while til they could support them. AIDS has created thousands of Haitian orphans.
And it shouldn’t have surprised me if I considered the history of AIDS. I don’t know if you remember donating blood and being asked if you’ve been to Haiti, but back when AIDS was a new phenomenon, Haiti was considered a sort of AIDS ground zero- to the extent even being there was grounds for your being rejected as a blood donor. (Remember this SNL skit?)
I read that in the 80s, experts figured AIDS would wipe out one-third of Haiti’s population. In the early 90s, estimates were that up to 6.2% of the population of Haiti had been infected by HIV/AIDS.
But things are different these days. And they seem to be changing for the better. A big July report put the infected population at 2.2% (down from over 3% a few years ago.) Things are still not great- 2.2% is still a lot of people. But things are better. Among groups working to keep this trend going in the right direction are
FYI, PIH is a Boston-based medical non-profit working for health and was co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, subject of a book (I’ve never read) called Mountains Beyond Mountains. He was recently made special deputy UN Envoy to Haiti by Bill Clinton, the official UN Envoy. Here’s something Nicholas Kristoff says about him.
GHESIKO’s founder is a Haitian, Dr Jean Pape, a world-respected expert on AIDS. GHESIKO is thought to operate the world’s oldest AIDS clinic. I did read the name of the agency is an acronym for Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections- because it was named before AIDS even had a name itself.
One of GHESIKO’s partners in the US is Cornell Medical School’s Division of International Medicine and Infectious Disease. Which of course makes me think of this:
Anyhow, I don’t know how informative this post was, but, if you want to investigate, you can.
There is also a small group I came across that seemed interesting – very grassroots. CHOAIDS – Caring for Haitian Orphans With AIDS. They have a facebook page. It doesnt look like it’s updated very often. I just saw it. Maybe you’ll find it of interest. It seemed legit and very much like a “drop in the bucket” organization – people doing what they can for other people. Every drop counts. I may investigate this later.
And of course, Sheepfold can always use donations!
Anyhow, there’s the lowdown, or what little I know of it. Thanks for reading.
And here it is, your moment of twin.
Can you tell which one he is!?