Conversations with the Living: The Haitian AIDS Crisis

The official blog of Conversations with the Living

Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Kay Angel Suffers a Tragic Loss

leave a comment »

Our hearts go out to the children of Kay Angel Orphanage, and the family and friends of Lia van de Donk who passed away last Wednesday evening June 27th from unknown causes. Her funeral will be tomorrow, Wednesday, July 4th.

We are deeply saddened by the news. Lia was an incredible woman whose work to provide a home and education for children in need and those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in Jacmel, Haiti is that of an angel on earth.

Thank you Lia for your selfless work. You will be missed.

May the love and support of those who knew Lia help through the days ahead, and the peace that comes from knowing that her incredible work has made a difference in the lives of many children, provide comfort for all who knew her. Her work is eternal, forever true and changeless.

As stated on Kay Angel’s website. “While no one can replace Lia as mother, anchor and advocate to “her” children, the search is on for the rare, right person to step into the role of caretaker,  administrator, construction supervisor, community advocate, manager of visitor and donor relations plus countless other functions.”

Temporary management will be put in place while they search for a successor.

In order for organizations like Kay Angel to continue providing children life saving medication and a loving home, they must be recognized and supported.

If you would like to read more about Lia and Kay Angel Orphanage or donate to the orphanage during this difficult time, please visit their website –http://www.kayangel.org/.

Peace – CWTL

      

Advertisements

World AIDS Day and Conversations With the Living

leave a comment »

WORLD AIDS DAY 2011

Today is World AIDS Day. Since 1988 World AIDS Day has been held on December 1st and provides the opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV, offer support to those affected and infected with HIV, and honor the lives of those who have died as a result of the virus.

World AIDS Day is one day, every year, dedicated to raising money, fighting prejudice, increasing awareness, improving education and helping people understand the facts surrounding HIV/AIDS globally. World AIDS Day is a way to remind people that AIDS is still a serious issue affecting millions of people each year. Although numerous organizations and activists work everyday to address the issue of HIV/AIDS, the global community needs to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV year round. The global crisis goes relatively unnoticed in the mainstream media, and oftentimes, unless directly affected, people tend to know very little about HIV/AIDS in their own communities, cities, and countries. World AIDS day is an opportunity to learn facts about HIV and use that knowledge to help in your community.

Even as scientific advances are made in HIV treatment, many people still go without access to resources and struggle with properly educating people about the virus, which plays a large role in reducing infection rates and fighting the discrimination and stigma often attached to the virus.

There are currently 33 million people living with HIV. This year 1.8 million HIV-positive persons died of Aids-related-illnesses and as many as 2.7 million were infected, that is over seven thousand people a day. HIV is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world.

GETTING TO ZERO

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is Getting to Zero, which focuses on three targets, Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS-related deaths. This is the goal of all goals. This is a call to arms, the very point of the global fight against HIV. There is a long way to go, but by focusing on reducing infection, stigma and deaths, given the progress made within populations with access to live saving medications and nutrition, this is a goal that cultivates great hope and aims to prove what can be accomplished with compassion and cooperation efforts.

Conversations With the Living is a documentary film that focuses on this hope and the amazing progress made when there is access to resources.

CONVERSATIONS WITH THE LIVING & HIV

Conversations With the Living is a feature length documentary that focuses on HIV-positive orphans and the daily lives of these children. In the process, the film highlights the network dedicated to bringing HIV-positive orphans the medication, food, housing, education, and emotional support that keeps them alive. We will trace the path of that medication from the child through the entire network that made it possible, showing the dedicated individuals that work tirelessly every day, grinding through routine and unforeseen challenges and providing real solutions to Haiti’s battle against HIV. It takes effort, organization, continued funding, and unerring dedication on the part of countless people to give these children a chance for survival and a future where they can be engaged and accepted in their communities.

As government agencies and aid organizations tighten their belts due to the struggling economy; HIV, and the core issues that make it difficult to combat, like poverty, malnourishment, and lack of access to medication, are tightening their grip on the most vulnerable populations. But, there are people doing incredible work, providing both access and support to those affected by and infected with HIV in Haiti, and we are telling their story.

The ultimate goal of Conversations with the Living is to draw attention to HIV/AIDS in the developing world and continue to raise awareness of the need to support AIDS organizations around the world. We are determined to show that HIV progress does not happen by accident and that the network of caregivers and activists that work together to provide for these children is intricate and delicate.

This network provides real hope for the future of these children and represents what is positive and possible. The positive strides made against the disease in countries like Haiti and the people who make it possible must not only be recognized, but also supported. Raising and maintaining awareness about the efforts of dedicated HIV workers must happen and their work must be expanded upon.

HIV & HAITI

In Haiti, an estimated 40,000 people die of AIDS every year. These are grim numbers when considering the size of the country, which is roughly the size of Maryland. When taking into account that a large percentage of at-risk Haitians who do not get tested due to access and fear of social stigma, experts believe the national statistic is much higher than recorded; some believe as high as 11%.Currently one in twenty Haitians is infected with HIV/AIDS and there are over 150,000 AIDS orphan.

No one should ever die of a treatable disease. Haiti’s struggle with AIDS and the elements of history that have contributed to its prevalence, still exist and continue to exacerbate the issue. The failure to provide access and address the societal issues surrounding HIV in Haiti only maintains and perpetuates a system that produces more death, deprivation, and disease.

For people living in developed countries around the world, HIV has become a manageable disease, however the majority of the world’s people living in the developing world are not afforded that luxury. Their children are the next generation of survivors, advocates and activists, and they are proof positive of what is possible given the resources and support.

When the HIV-positive are provided the proper resources in Haiti, they are happy, healthy and hopeful. Lives are being saved and people need to know what is working in Haiti and what needs to be done to maintain this work and broaden its reach. 

There is a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education and your participation is needed, not just today, but everyday.

– Leigh E. Carlson

We Need an On-Line Rally…

leave a comment »

…which means that we need you. We have launched our on-line campaign on Indie Go Go to raise the funds to complete Conversations With the Living, but let’s call it an on-line demonstration; a place where people, activists, advocates, artists and filmmakers gather / assemble and give what they can, whether time, energy or money for a common purpose. This project’s team is made up of individuals focused on what is good in Haiti, and this film highlights those making a difference, an impact that has saved lives and will save millions more. Let’s get together for this common purpose. Why? Because these messages, these films that spark these conversations have a real qualitative and quantitative impact, and these conversations need to begin and need to continue.

Although the issue of HIV/AIDS is complex, people are working together to help sustain and expand a network dedicated to HIV prevention, care and support that is working in Haiti and their story MUST be told.

If you are following our project and this campaign then you know that for nearly three years we have managed to continue through donated time, efforts and services, as well as small monetary donations. Your contribution is critical to the completion of this project and we will continue to make sure that the critical work that health care workers, volunteers and patients are doing in Haiti receives the long overdue attention it deserves. It is this work by Haitians for Haitians that is saving lives and must continue.

Become a part of the CONVERSATION today!

– LC

Check out the Official Conversations with the Living Promo Trailer!

leave a comment »

The new Conversations with the Living promo trailer is done and dusted. Check it out. When you’re done, make a tax-deductible donation to our documentary so we can tell an urgent and important story. Public health donors around the world are pulling back and providing less resources to countries in need. The world’s attention needs to be focused on the issue in order to maintain reasonable funding. We need your help in shining a light on the valiant efforts public health workers around the world do every day with no fanfare. We cannot do it without your support.

Written by conversationswiththeliving

September 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

CWTL Production Diary: Getting Moving Again with the LA AIDS Walk and then some…

leave a comment »

Monday July, 18th – 7:30PM:

Hello from Los Angeles, where the Conversations With the Living team has registered  for the LA AIDS WALK, which is happening on October 16th, 2011. Members of our team have walked for the past several years as individuals, but this year we are walking as a team, joining grassroots fundraisers and community activists who raise millions of dollars for organizations working to make a difference in the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS.

AIDS WALK LOS ANGELES  has raised $66 million for HIV programs and services in Los Angeles County since 1985 and unites people of all ages, races, and backgrounds.

These individuals and organizations are pulling together in an organized effort to provide urgently needed funds that will go to provide critical resources to those affected by HIV, including food, medication, housing, emotional support and to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in their community and across the globe.

We will be getting our group site up to speed and ready to share with you so you can track our progress as we work to reach our fundraising goal.

I will post the information once our group page is set-up and hope you will visit the site to learn a little more about what the LA community is doing to fight HIV/AIDS. As you know it is not just about October 16th, 2011 in LA or December 1st on WORLD AIDS DAY;  events like these all over the world bring people together, garner support from the community and yield impressive results – proof positive that when a focused effort is made and the critical need to fund HIV/AIDS initiatives is present in dialogue about community and global health there can be amazing outcomes. Once or twice a year is not enough, but it is an amazing opportnity to become involved and have your voice heard. Many of those involved in these very important events have made the fight against HIV/AIDS their life’s work. Conversations With the Living is looking forward to supporting these organziations in their work and hopes that our project will help shed light on the significance of their efforts and the positive results of their dedication.

As Conversations With the Living continues to move forward and works to complete its film focused on HIV/AIDS in Haiti, a project over two years in the making, we understand the importance of being involved in the global fight against HIV, and remain inspired by the support in communities like LA and NYC for a disease that prior to community support carried with it a crippling uncertainty. My hope is that the same level of  engagement and acceptance for those suffering from HIV/AIDS will be found in developing countries like Haiti. This is one of the many things that we are working for.

Will post our video from the LA AIDS Walk from the last two years shortly.

– LC

Production Diary Day: 67 + 2 Years

leave a comment »

10:00 PST: It has been a while since I’ve posted. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. I have been so engaged in the day to day and I’m just now finding my bearings, taking note of all that has happened and wrapping my mind around what it all means.  I have even managed to go a few days without speaking to ML, which rarely happens. We will be catching up Sunday via phone.

So, we are overdue for a Conversations Production update.

Now that ML has nailed down the narrative, the few gaps that still need patching up are awaiting the expertise of a few of our contacts in Haiti. I have reached out to Dr. Marie Deschamps at GHESKIO, who has received international recognition for her contributions to HIV/AIDS care and is an incredible advocate for the women and children of Haiti.

I’ve also reached out a few times to John Dieubon, co-founder of Planting Peace, who runs the daily operations of their orphanages in Haiti. John is also the founder of Project Papillon, which manages 4 orphanages, and a neighborhood school (Ayiti Papillon Academy).

We have received word from the Rainbow House (Maison l’Arc-en-Ciel), which was founded in 1996 and is a 24-hour medical care for children receiving antiviral medication for HIV. They also serve as a residence for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and function as an outreach center for approximately 100 families affected by HIV/AIDS.  Perhaps, most importantly they provide education and training to community-based organizations, enabling them to address medical and social issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in their communities.

This message of acceptance and engagement of young individuals affected by HIV in their communities is part of what our film explores and what these organizations advocate in the communities in which they work.

So while awaiting response in order to set-up phone calls or additional correspondence, I am writing grants and making use of every millisecond available.

I’ll leave you with a thought (which is another posting altogether). With the explosion of revolutionary movements sweeping the Middle East and Africa (although with little media attention on Africa) people are making their voices heard and are demanding democracy. Rulers across the region and the world are scared that decades of control will vanish when the powerful force of the people takes hold – people willing to die for freedom from misery and the possibility of democracy. Even here in the US the assault on democracy is and has been under severe attack, and the working people and the poor have had enough.

I am left thinking about a supposed Haitian “democracy” that has proven to leave its citizens with no homes, no work, no health care, and no real government support for decades.  As the Haitian runoff elections approach, the choices Haitians are left will quite possibly lead to more of the same.  As always, our hope remains that Haiti’s next leader will oversee its government and people with an agenda for real change, but if it is more of the same, what will the Haitian people do?

Thank you for reading our production blog – please also check out and subscribe to our official site on word press for daily news updates on Haiti brought to you by GC.

http://conversationswiththelivingofficial.wordpress.com/

– LC

A New Leader Ready to Serve the People of Haiti?

leave a comment »

I recently had a phone call with Johnson, one of our scouts on the ground in Haiti. He blared the music of Michel ”Sweet Micky” Martelly over the phone and sang along proclaiming, “I love this music, and everyone is loving this music”. It seems many people in his Carrefour neighborhood are playing the music of “Sweet Micky” these days – but what of Martelly’s inclusion in the upcoming runoff election?

The decision to reverse the results of the candidates included in the upcoming runoff election was announced a few weeks ago after the Organisation of American States (OAS) found the original election results to be fraudulent, favoring Jude Celestin of the INITE (Unity) Party, who was supported in his campaign by current President Rene Preval.

The runoff will now include Mirlande Manigat of the Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP) Party, and Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly. The runoff has been rescheduled for March 20 and people are asking the same question that was posed months ago – should there be new elections altogether?

The decision to reverse the results of the first round polls was met with relative calm on the streets, but the question of legitimacy regarding the initial elections and the upcoming runoff elections is a major topic of conversation among human rights advocates, political analysts and Haitian citizens alike. Many displaced Haitians and registered voters were unable to cast their ballots, and several candidates, even entire parties, were excluded from running in the race, including the Fanmi Lavalas party, a political party with major popular support in Haiti.  Even though the argument against the exclusionary elections was made prior to the initial elections, US and foreign governments supported the Haitian Electoral Council’s flawed process.

Now with the OAS results, although not accepted by the Haiti’s Provi­sional Electoral Council (CEP), the US and the United Nations (UN) welcome the decision and hope that Celestin’s exclusion will “clear the way for a more stable political climate and allow international aid efforts to be stepped up”, however many question the intentions of the US and foreign governments and criticize their interference both before and after the elections. Human rights groups believe that the US government used its tremendous power and influence to determine the outcome of the first round of elections and “denied Haitians the opportunity to express their will.” One can’t help but ask how western economic interests played into the support of the initial elections, how they are currently manipulating Haitian politics, and why the typical pattern of exploitation has in no way ceased since the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

The US has always used its influence as a powerful nation to get what it wants from the poorest countries in the world. Although the election results were in question, the final decision to exclude Celestin was forced upon Haiti, “literally under the threat of starvation.” The US has yet to manage distribution of promised aid to the country since the devastating earthquake and is using delivery of this aid and continued support to even further impose their will over the people in their struggle for democracy.

Even with Celestin excluded, most people are still missing the point – the elections were a fraud from the beginning. Many argue that the two candidates now participating in the runoff do not represent the people, and most would argue that neither does Celestin.

Haiti is entangled in an intense political crisis and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic Policy and Research believes, “This attempt to impose an illegitimate government on Haiti will backfire.” Haitian civil society groups, political parties, the Congressional Black Caucus and several U.S. human rights groups are calling for new, inclusive elections as the only practical solution to Haiti’s election crisis.

To make matters more complicated, the runoff elections are following the controversial return of previous president and dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier on January 16th, who has run into corruption and human rights charges. And more recently news that the Council of Ministers has agreed to issue a diplomatic passport to former President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has been in exile in South Africa for almost seven years, following a 2004 US backed coup d’état has stirred up further controversy. Both men bring with them a history tainted with decades of political instability, civil unrest and corruption.

Aristide still has a lot of popular support, as he was Haiti’s first democratically elected leader, and said recently that he is ready to return to his homeland “today, tomorrow, at any time”, but has yet to return.  Some fear his return could upset an already confused presidential and legislative elections process.

Preval’s mandate has formally ended, but parliament has approved his stay until May 14th so he can hand over to an elected successor.

The innumerable issues present both before and after the January earthquake only fuel the tensions surrounding Haiti’s upcoming runoff elections. Democracy in Haiti has a long way to go, and her most vulnerable and under-represented citizens continue to hope that what will come of this lengthily and flawed “democratic” process is a new leader ready to serve the people of Haiti, but most, quite justifiably, have their doubts.

– LC