In Haiti, what does the earthquake have to do with HIV/AIDS?

The quake that rocked Haiti at the beginning of this year was beyond devastating, instantly. I don’t need to barrage you with statistics because I think most of us have a general understanding of what happened and how it left the country in even deeper poverty.

But it only occurred to me yesterday, in talking with my colleague Renee Targos, that the earthquake also dramatically changed the course of HIV/AIDS in Haiti. Before the quake, about 200,000 people were known to be infected with HIV. That number may well be higher today, according to Dr. Marlene Adrien Dorismond, the FH health programs manager whom Renee interviewed.

In the hours and days following the quake, Dr. Dorismond explained, there were so many medical emergencies and so few resources that regular health precautions took a back seat to on-the-spot care. Amidst the chaos, blood wasn’t handled as carefully as it should have been. Gloves weren’t available or weren’t used, and this likely contributed to the spread of the virus.

So the staff of FH and other non-governmental organizations have been working like mad to continue their programs with even less infrastructure than before. FH’s approach is to focus heavily on the social, emotional and spiritual effects the virus has on individual lives. It’s a mindset change, which takes time to implement but has long-lasting results.

Progress can be seen; there are many good things coming out of Haiti, and we’ll experience those stories in the weeks to come.

Cleutea lives with HIV. In the next blog post, she’ll tell her story of fighting the virus’s stigma.