Conversations with the Living: The Haitian AIDS Crisis

The official blog of Conversations with the Living


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The Conversations With the Living west coast team will be walking in the 27th annual AIDS WALK LOS ANGELES tomorrow, October 16th to show our support for the organizations that are doing incredible work to combat HIV/AIDS here in LA, and to help represent the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Walk Los Angeles has benefited AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) since 1985. APLA works to help people affected by HIV disease; reduce the incidence of HIV infection; and advocate for fair and effective HIV–related public policy.

Conversations With the Living is a documentary film that is talking about what is possible when people come together to form a network that works day-to-day to improve the lives of the HIV+, by providing medication, food, housing, education and support. Our message, our mission is supported by the fact that the tireless work of individuals over the years has managed to make a positive impact on the lives of those affected by HIV in Haiti, and this network must be expanded.

Imagine how the lives of the HIV+ could improve in developing countries like Haiti, if there was a greater level of social acceptance and if the methods that are working were recognized and expanded upon.

We walk tomorrow to support the local efforts here in LA, celebrate the strong community of support and to do our part to bridge the gap.

There is a large disparity between what is possible in the fight against HIV in developing countries when resources are available and the actual amount of available resources. Looking at what has been accomplished over decades of dedication to reducing HIV infection, increasing awareness and providing support for the HIV+ in developed countries; this disparity exists because the education, resources and support are not getting to the regions of the world with the highest infection rates.

People in developed countries and underdeveloped countries require the same treatment and lives are saved and improved by the same methods. It has been over 30 years since HIV became household term and a lot of progress has been made, affectively changing the course of this deadly disease and saving countless lives—but in terms of HIV globally it is not only time to look back on the history of HIV, but to look towards a future where changing the course of HIV/AIDS is not just a story we tell in developed countries like the United States, but a reality around the world.

AIDS WALK LOS ANGELES is about individuals, everyday people coming together in solidarity for a purpose – Imagine if this type of event were to take place in a developing country where the population affected could be supported and no longer hide in the shadows. Imagine the impact if the level of acceptance and support that we will feel tomorrow in Los Angeles was felt around the world.

We walk to support and celebrate the work of individuals and organizations here in LA and around the world that are working to save millions of lives.

We walk to bridge the gap.

– Leigh E. Carlson


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October 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm

CWTL Crew Q&A: Gregory Cassagnol on producing a documentary in Haiti

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What are some of the difficulties that you’ve faced during production?
I think the biggest obstacle that we’ve faced so far is managing the logistics of production within the many layers of Administration within the Haitian government that a group like ours must maneuver while attempting to tell our story. It’s been a challenge and will continue to be when dealing with such sensitive subject matter.

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October 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

HIV/AIDS in Haiti: the big picture

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Here’s a map of the world that shows the prevalence of adults with HIV from country to country. It’s very interesting to see that Haiti has the second highest prevalance rate on the index. Such a small country, such a huge problem. Join the Conversation.

– Gregory Cassagnol


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October 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

Not Necessarily a Death Sentence

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Being HIV+ in Haiti doesn’t necessarily equate to a death sentence. Sure, resources are scarce and the public health care system leaves much to be desired, but there is hope. The will to live exhibited by the afflicted, the dedication of the health workers and physicians fighting the spread of the disease, and the desire for drastic change carried by Haitians and Haitian Americans all over the world; form the beginnings of a framework that can potentially reverse the trend of increasing HIV infections in Haiti.

There have been great strides made in the past decade and it’s imperative that the international community retain it’s focus on Haiti and speed up the rebuilding process. The momentum that was building pre-earthquake needs to be kickstarted again. It’s the biggest hope that Haiti has.

– Gregory Cassagnol

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October 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

CWTL Crew Q&A: Gregory Cassagnol on why HIV/AIDS and Haiti are important

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Why was this subject important to you?
I grew up in New York City as a teenager and young adult when HIV/AIDS made it’s first blip on the Nation’s consciousness. I saw and felt first hand the effects of the stigmas attached to Haitians and their connections to this new and deadly virus. I had family and friends in the community that lost loved ones to HIV/AIDS. My attachment to the subject matter was very personal.

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October 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

CWTL Crew Q&A: What is the prognosis for these HIV positive orphans?

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Marc Landas (Director)

HIV+ orphans face challenges on numerous fronts. Firstly, they have a life-long disease that is still life-threatening. In resource poor environments, that is no small thing. We take it for granted in resource rich countries that HIV is a now a chronic and manageable disease. That is not a given in developing countries around the world. Another major challenge for HIV+ orphans is the ignorance-driven stigma prevalent in countries where the disease carries connotations of homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and physical weakness. Unfortunately, Haiti is one of them. In many ways, the stigma can be just as crippling as the disease. While the orphans may survive the disease, they must do so in secret. They must live lives in fear. Fear of being discovered. Fear of telling the truth. Fear of how others will treat them. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of never finding work. That is no way to live a life but until people get educated to the facts and learn to accept human beings as they are, rather than how they think they should be, that is the life of fear awaiting HIV+ orphans when they grow up.

Help us get back to Haiti and tell our story. Go to and Join the Conversation! Donate now!

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October 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Tabou Combo, Brasserie Creole, and CWTL

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CWTL set up a table over the weekend at Brasserie Combo in Cambria Heights. We met some fantastic people and had a great time speaking with everyone about the documentary. Tabou Combo remembered a friend that passed on and did it the best way they know how – with music. Here’s a taste of what it was like. (Apologies for the weird angle and the shaky hand.)

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October 4, 2011 at 10:10 am