Conversations with the Living: The Haitian AIDS Crisis

The official blog of Conversations with the Living

Archive for November 2010

Exclusive Interview With Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

leave a comment »

Documentary filmmaker, reporter, and producer of the documentary film Aristide and the Endless Revolution, Nicolas Rossier, conducted an exclusive interview with former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The in-depth interview covers Haiti’s history, his forced exile in South Africa, the state of Haiti today, January’s earthquake, democracy in Haiti, the current cholera epidemic, Haiti’s future and the dignity of her people.

This is a wonderful piece that places many of the issues facing Haiti today in the context of Haiti’s history of exploitation by foreign powers.

Suggested Reading: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicolas-rossier/post_1263_b_783706.html

– LC

Advertisements

Written by conversationswiththeliving

November 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Constant State of Emergency

leave a comment »

Photo Courtesy of Bryan Fletchall

The people of Haiti are fighters. A glimpse into the history of this proud and spirited nation will reveal that even amongst the most intense suffering; Haitian people are proud of and embrace their heritage, their culture, and their country.

There are so many incredibly beautiful things about Haiti; there is so much good lost and forgotten amidst the tragedy. As so rightly stated by Haitian-American author, Edwidge Danticat, “I think Haiti is a place that suffers so much from neglect that people only want to hear about it when it’s at its extreme. And that’s what they end up knowing about it. “

The people of Haiti are beautiful, their roots run deep, and their telling story of strength and resilience is one that has been written out of the history books. Even as they exist is a constant state of emergency, historically underserved and under acknowledged, they continue to fight and hope for a better future for Haiti and her people. Haiti’s historical suffering bleeds into the present, an ever-gaping wound of injustice, making the inaction of both Haitian and foreign governments to the continued crisis unsurprising, as it is nothing short of dismal, if not criminal.

Amongst the flooded tent cities surrounded by rubble, the cholera crisis deepens, killing hundreds and infecting thousands. Haiti has long struggled with poverty and disease, both directly linked to the nation’s history of exploitation by foreign powers with sinister agendas; agendas that have claimed millions of lives for the sake of international interests.

Curable and Manageable Disease

Curable and manageable disease has killed millions of people in Haiti and other developing countries for decades, even while the medicines to treat the affected population are available. The affected populations’ inability to access these medications is a human rights violation of the most basic and harmful kind. International government policy has long dictated access to these medications and a major component in facilitating their effective use – proper nourishment, i.e. food and water.

Impoverished governments unable to afford medications and trade agreements that have controlled the production, distribution and affordability of food and medicine have put Haiti and other developing countries in a constant state of emergency, because they have not had the opportunity to even build, let alone maintain a proper health care, industrial or agricultural infrastructure.

The current cholera epidemic in Haiti is another hurdle amongst a series of obstacles in a nation of fighters. The struggle to combat cholera is all too familiar, as Haiti has battled high infection rates of malaria, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS in the past and continues to in the present. Money and bureaucracy have always managed to hinder access to life-saving medicine, and as a result lives continue to be lost.

With limited access the major factor in determining the welfare of millions in mind, the following section discusses a pending trade agreement between the European Union and India that threatens to even further decrease access to medications in developing countries.

Pending Trade Agreement Possible Threat to HIV Sufferers

Patent laws have created a system where pharmaceutical companies stand to gain enormous profits from obtaining rights to create and distribute drugs at a price they see fit to gain profit with little regard for those who need access them. High demand equals expensive medicine and healthy profits for developers, while those who need the medications the most can’t acquire them. Simply, the pharmaceutical industry, without argument, control’s the fate of the world’s sick.

A possible international trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and India has medical professionals, activists, and patients concerned that millions of HIV sufferers in the developing world will be without the drugs they need to survive.

India’s generic pharmaceutical industry competes with these profit driven drug producers. Having been coined the “developing world’s pharmacy”, India, under its patent laws produces generic drugs that are distributed around the world, “bypassing a system designed to ensure drug developers are rewarded with a period of exclusive sales rights for new medicines.” As a result India has become the source of medicine for many of the world’s developing countries in order to treat the critically ill.

With access to generic drugs, the cost of treating patients with HIV has fallen from around $10,000 dollars a year in 2000 to just $70 a year today.

Not only has India’s generic production of medicines meant that its own population has benefitted from access to life-saving drugs, but as stated by Hans V. Hogerzeil, Director of Medicines Policy and Standards at the World Health Organization, “at least half of the five million Aids patients in Africa already on treatment rely on Indian generic medicines for their treatment.”

Although the European Union denies that the agreement will negatively impact India’s generic medicine industry, until a draft of the agreement is made available criticism and concern over its contents will continue from medical professionals, HIV/AIDS activists and patients.

Individuals infected with HIV/AIDS and other diseases can live long and productive lives if provided adequate nutrition and medicine. If treatment for the critically ill is made available and lives can been saved in developing countries where food, clean water and medical supplies are difficult to come by, a diagnosis once tantamount to a death sentence can be regarded as a manageable disease.

A link to the full article regarding the pending trade agreement is below.

Link: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/2010/10/2010102920031160477.html

– LC

Hurricane Tomas and Decades of Failed Policy

with one comment

The people of Haiti are dealing with the impact of Hurricane Tomas currently threatening the Caribbean nation and endangering millions of Haitians living in IDP camps who are already at risk, living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions with no protection from environmental elements.

It is reported that heavy rain, flooding and landslides have killed at least seven people. Although it appears Haiti has avoided a “direct hit”, there is pending danger of flash floods and mudslides that could threaten residents of IDP camps.

The Haitian government and UN are asking millions of Haitians to leave their tents and tarps, which have been their only form of protection since the January 12th earthquake, however much like the issue of forced evictions, the Haitian government has no plan to house or provide aid to displaced individuals. People are hesitant to leave the camps, concerned that they will lose whatever form of home they have and their few remaining possessions.

With the problems facing Haiti, many of which are issues the nation has been facing for years, including the housing crisis, food crisis, health care crisis, and an endless list of social and economic challenges, Haitians now face another natural disaster. Even if rain and flooding is minimal there is fear that the efforts to contain the deadly cholera outbreak will be stifled, an outbreak that has claimed the lives of at least “442 people and sickened more than 6,700.”

Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister states, “the government is doing all it can to provide aid and better shelter to the most vulnerable, but we simply do not have the resources to help many of them.”

Haitian youth, John-Smith Deshommes, is having a difficult time understanding why one obstacle after another is putting Haitians further and further into crisis.” Things have always been difficult, but I don’t know what is happening with Haiti. Eight months ago we met an earthquake that destroyed Haiti, some months later, we met cholera, and now we are facing hurricane Tomas. Everybody is being called to move; meanwhile, they have nowhere to go and nowhere to live. Why all these problems?”

Although the January 12th earthquake and Hurricane Tomas are natural disasters, many of the crises Haiti is dealing with are man-made disasters whose causes are rooted in decades of poverty, poor governance, and policies that have resulted in Haitians being vulnerable to these environmental threats.

Any real analysis of Haiti’s issues, including the earthquake that destroyed much of the nation, the recent cholera outbreak, the damage and deaths due to the storm, and problems with avoiding additional spread of disease across the country must include an objective examination of how policy is or is not safeguarding Haiti’s citizens. A thorough assessment of the policies implemented by the government of Haiti and the international community both before and after the earthquake offer some answers to the question – Why all these problems?

Flawed policies have plagued Haiti for decades, including trade policies resulting in mass deforestation, dependence on foreign food, medicine and additional imports, questionable distribution of international aid, debt to foreign governments, and illegal elections, all of which have minimized the ability to provide and maintain basic services.

One of the main reasons for the 2010 earthquake’s lethality was because of Haiti’s extreme poverty on every level. Governmental poverty created the weak physical infrastructure that crumbled during the earthquake, and the public health system that ceased to function in the immediate aftermath of the disaster because it was already crippled to begin with. The earthquake shattered much of Haiti, but the country was broken long before the disaster struck. How many lives could have been saved had the poverty not been so severe?

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, a known and indisputable fact. Every country’s ability to provide a sound infrastructure is directly linked to its economy. Haiti is poor, therefore its infrastructure is lacking in every arena and currently has no ability to protect its citizens from environmental threat. Haitians can and will rebuild, but the Haitian government and international governments must be held accountable for the flawed policies of the past and for the future of Haiti as a nation. Their policy decisions affect the lives of nearly seven million people, begging the question; why is it so difficult for those in a position to radically improve these lives to do what they know is right on behalf of the Haitian people?

-LC

Footprints of a colonial past: Primitive sugar mills in old Haiti

leave a comment »

At one time, sugar production was the be-all and end-all of France’s colonial aspirations in St. Domingue and helped fund the ascent of port cities like Marseilles.

Remembering happier times in Haiti

leave a comment »

Haiti’s going through rough times. Thought we’d take a look at a different time. This is a football/soccer match between Haiti and Jamaica. After all the tragedies Haitians have experienced, they’re still mad about the sport.

Written by conversationswiththeliving

November 2, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Haiti’s Housing Crisis and the Increase of Sexual Violence

leave a comment »

This week the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and other human rights advocates testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on unlawful forced evictions from Haiti’s displacement camps, and submitted a petition calling for urgent action against an epidemic of sexual violence in the camps.

Human rights advocates are calling upon the Haitian government to respect human rights of displaced people and comply with its obligations under the Inter-American Convention.

It is clear that the housing crisis in Haiti and the increase in violence against women, although separate issues, are intrinsically linked. The lack of security in the IDP camps effects all displaced Haitians, and the crisis of violence against women is escalating at an alarming rate.

Bill Quigley, social justice advocate and Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, asserts “The ultimate solution here is permanent, safe housing for Haitians. Unfortunately, the international community has reneged on its commitment to provide essential funds for rebuilding and the U.S., in particular, has not delivered even one cent of the reconstruction funding it pledged. Women are being forced to live in extremely unsafe conditions for the foreseeable future and it is a deplorable failure on the part of those who made such a show about standing with the Haitian people in their greatest hour of need.” – With unsafe conditions in the camps, and forced evictions a major threat, where will people go?”

Where will people go? Imagine 1.5 million people, with little means prior to the loss of their homes and loved ones, having their only shelter (a tent or tarp) taken from them. To make matters worse the residents of the IDP camps that stand up for their rights and refuse to leave are terrorized and beaten by the police.

Why must Haitians suffer in the aftermath of continued crisis when the ability to make policy decisions that will lessen, if not curtail additional crisis exists?

“This is just the beginning of a problem we’ll be facing for years to come unless the Haitian government immediately puts a moratorium on forced expulsions, verifies land ownership titles, and nationalizes by decree all empty and idle lands in the hands of purported landowners.” – says lawyer Mario Joseph with Bureau des Advocats Internationaux

Written by conversationswiththeliving

November 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized