Organizations Highlight Plight Of HIV-Positive Haitians, Call For Donors To Support ‘Whole Of Society’ Health System Strengthening

Organizations attending the International AIDS Conference-AIDS 2010 highlighted the plight of HIV-positive earthquake survivors in Haiti who are “still waiting for aid promised to them before” the quake as rebuilding efforts slowly move along, Agence France-Presse reports.

AFP notes the sentiments of some of the organizations’ representatives. “It’s very difficult for grassroots organisations to operate since the quake. We simply don’t have the means to do so,” said Liony Acclus, head of PHAP+, a Haitian coalition of groups for people with AIDS. According to Acclus, about 90 percent of funding for AIDS in Haiti is from sources overseas.

Edner Boucicaut, head of the NGO Housing Works, said that programs established to help people who have AIDS earn a living “are no longer operating” since the earthquake. Prospective employers often ask job candidates to prove they are HIV-negative, Boucicaut said.

“We’ve lost 70 percent of our office space. But that isn’t stopping us working,” said Jean-William Pape, director of the Haitian NGO Gheskio. “The situation is not going to deteriorate, because health organisations are well organised.”

“What we hear about Haiti is always very negative, but before the earthquake, good things were happening there, in the health sector particularly,” said Jonathan Quick, director of Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

To move forward, Gheskio, MSH and Partners in Health with the Global Health Council, released a statement (.doc) recommending that the international community direct support to a “‘whole of society’ integrated approach to strengthening health systems as the best way to sustain HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment over the long term,” APF writes (Guillard, 7/21).

“This approach would draw on the diverse insights and experiences of all participants in the Haitian health sector, incorporating the public, private and NGO sectors and involving the government as well as communities. It supports integration of HIV services with other health services, such as tuberculosis, malaria, family planning/reproductive health and maternal, newborn and child health,” the press release states. It also calls “on the donor community to support the Haitian Ministry of Health’s plea for training of more health workers and increasing the salaries of existing workers so that critical care health centers can remain functional” (7/20).

In related news, the Globe and Mail examines the challenges face by a group of HIV-positive teenage girls who have been living in a “handful of flimsy camping tents” since the earthquake.

“On Jan. 12, the epic earthquake that rocked Haiti wiped out the downtown safe house that a local HIV-awareness group had rented for the girls to live in. By then, life had already been especially cruel by several metrics – all were born with HIV and have lost their parents to AIDS. Loss of the space where they had begun to feel human again was crushing: Jacmel is a place where discrimination against people with HIV is rampant. The virus is so misunderstood that people still believe it can be contracted by sharing silverware with infected people,” the newspaper writes.  

The article notes the involvement of the NGO “KALMI (… Kombit Aysien Pou Lavi Myio, or Haitian Committee for a Better Life),” which has tried to help the teenagers (Leeder, 7/21).

IMF Executive Board Cancels Haiti’s Debt, Approves New Loan

“The executive board of the International Monetary Fund approved Wednesday the cancellation of Haiti’s $268 million debt to the fund,” CNN reports. “The board also approved a three-year request by authorities to support Haiti’s reconstruction and growth program” (7/21).

“The $60 million, three-year loan, which bears no interest until the end of 2011, will help the central bank manage potential currency volatility as donor funds flow in, the Washington-based IMF said,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes. 

“Donors must start delivering on their promises to Haiti quickly so reconstruction can be accelerated, living standards quickly improved, and social tensions soothed,” IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said in the press release. In addition, the IMF said it would provide Haiti with technical assistance aimed at strengthening government institutions, such as the tax system and budget.

Reacting to the news, Oxfam International Policy Adviser Pamela Gomez said in a statement, “While it is welcome that the fund is providing Haiti with debt relief, it is deeply concerning that at the same time the fund is risking a build-up of Haiti’s future debt problems with a loan.” Gomez added, “This assistance should be a grant, not another loan” (7/21).

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