What “stigma” really means to one Haitian family

As mentioned in the last blog post, much of the progress made by Food for the Hungry and other NGOs in Haiti was greatly hindered by the massive January 2010 earthquake. Still, right now, dedicated Haitians and people from other countries devote themselves to stopping AIDS in Haiti through education, prevention, and care for those already infected. In between the statistics are many real people who know what it means to bear the label of being HIV-positive yet live triumphantly.

Cleutea’s son, Junior (left), discovered his mother was infected when neighbors cut off the electricity and water from her home.

Cleutea kept her HIV-positive status a secret even from her own children because, to most Haitians, having HIV means you have no hope. When Cleutea’s neighbors discovered her status, they cut the electricity wires and shut off the water supply to her one-room apartment because she was as good as dead.

This is an example of the “stigma” associated with HIV/AIDS in many places that lack education and prevention tactics.

FH staff in Haiti and other parts of the world model Jesus’ command to look after the sick (Matt. 25:36) by building friendships with people who have been discarded by their own communities.

FH staff member Mickelle Paulemon (right) visits Cleutea once a month to offer friendship, comfort and education on HIV/AIDS. 

Cleutea was referred to FH by a local hospital. Through FH’s program, she has received a water filtration system (in the photo above), vitamins to boost her immune system, and access to a support group.

“Through these groups, they know they are not alone,” says Dr. Marlene Adrien Dorismond, FH health programs manager in Haiti. “We teach them that it [HIV/AIDS] is not a curse or punishment from God.”

Discrimination from Cleutea’s community didn’t disappear overnight, but she can deal with it now, with the social support and genuine acceptance from FH staff.

“FH means a lot to me,” she says. “FH gives me a lot of mental support and visits me.” Physically, she has more energy and is working to start a small business. Cleutea professes belief in Christ and relies on prayer and community to help her through.

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