From 2 – 12 November 2000, in four localities of the South East of Haiti, the Association for National Solidarity (ASON) organized an awareness and motivation campaign on AIDS. This campaign, which was funded by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), aimed to contribute to the reduction of the rate of infection by HIV and to break the social barriers and discrimination towards seropositive people.
This “crusade” had its first stop on 3 November 2000 at the “Emile Posy” school and on the “Cojurelle” beach of Marigot.
“How to live with AIDS; AIDS, a threat to society; What does the future hold for an HIV-positive person?” were the themes of the debate which took place during five hours between members of ASON and an audience estimated at more than 300 people.
The audience at Marigot, located at 24 kilometers from Jacmel, composed of youth and adults, took the floor many times, and asked questions on the modes of transmitting HIV.
This article was produced with the collaboration and financial support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the scope of the ASON project: “Awareness and Motivation Campaign through the Voices of People Living with HIV/AIDS,” a campaign which covered Haiti’s Departments of the South-East and the West during November and December 2000
The second meeting took place on 4 November in Cayes-Jacmel, a locality 16 kilometers North-East of Jacmel.
Seropositive people, members of ASON, brought forward numerous testimonies before an audience of more than 450 youth.
The lecturers talked about the hardships which they are confronted with, together with their family members. They related to the participants about the suffering they endure and all the heavy expenses they run into for the purchase of medicines.
“I need US$6,000 per year to purchase medicines. I sometimes receive some, thanks to the generosity of institutions like ASON for instance,” Christian Jules said.
At the Cayes-Jacmel high school, a 20-year old girl who participated in the shooting of the documentary “Beware of AIDS,” stated: “In the past, I did not take AIDS for serious. Like others, I would say it is politics. But today, forced by observing the damage caused by this scourge on humanity, I am persuaded that it is for real.”
The youth of Cayes-Jacmel asked many questions. They all hope that one day AIDS will be stopped.
On Sunday 5 November, the third meeting took place on the public square of St. Anne in Jacmel.
Carmelle Dimercie, a young woman of 20 years old, who participated in this meeting, stated that: “The testimony of Christian Jules is sad; he did impress us with a lot of emotion, because he is a youth like us.”
The fourth awareness and motivation meeting took place in La Vallee, a village 26 kilometers North-West of Jacmel. About 600 pupils participated in this event, held on 8 November.
Mr. Jerome Altidor, the city’s mayor, who participated in this manifestation, said that he was very satisfied. He took the occasion to thank ASON and especially UNICEF which funded this programme.
“It is for the first time that the youth of La Vallee has had the chance to receive this antidote. I hope it will not be the last time,” the mayor said.
“I have often heard talk about this illness, but it is for the first time in my life that I have seen people willing to give public testimony that they live with HIV/AIDS. This to me is unbelievable,” Jean Nazaire said, a pupil of the Philippe Jules High School of La Vallee.
Impressed by the testimonies of infected persons, a parent confessed to members of ASON that he is responsible for a 12-year old girl, who is HIV positive. Both her parents have already deceased due to AIDS.
A 38 year old nurse even invited the members of ASON to visit her. She lives a hidden life in the neighbourhood community of La Voute, a communal section of Jacmel, since she was informed by her doctor to be HIV positive,
“Your presence has truly comforted me. I felt isolated, but today, with your words of encouragement, I have a bit of hope to live,” the nurse said to the members of ASON.
The fifth meeting of ASON took place on 10 December, in the town hall of Jacmel, by 3:30 in the afternoon.
For three hours, the speakers of ASON testified before an audience of about 400 people, mostly youth. They urged participants to take precautions.
“Because AIDS is smart, it is an incurable disease,” Christian Jules said, one of the HIV positive people. Many people in the audience stood up to pose questions.
Gina, a 21 year pupil of St-Louis high school, asked the persons in charge of ASON to continue with this type of work in the South East. “AIDS is leaving its trail over the youth, especially those of Jacmel,” she declared.
Jocelyne, a 22 old girl stated that: “I am very happy to participate in this interesting meeting. I have learned many things that I was not aware of. I am ready to work as a volunteer in a similar programme to make the youth aware of AIDS.”
On Saturday 11 November, around 4:30 pm, invited by Club Cool and the Red Cross youth, the members of ASON answered questions of 150 youth who participated in the meeting.
On Sunday 12 November, the tour of ASON closed around 5:00 p.m. on the public square of Toussaint Louverture in Jacmel, with an audience of more than 400 people, from all age brackets.
Jean Saurel Beaujour, Executive Secretary of ASON, took the floor to ask the crowd to protect themselves against AIDS.
He gave a presentation on the general epidemiological situation of Haiti, emphasizing that: “120 deaths due to AIDS are recorded daily in Haiti, while 120 new cases of AIDS develop every day among those already infected with the virus.”
Jean-Julien Raymond, in charge of Club Cool in Jacmel, indicated that: “The impact of this awareness and motivation campaign will surely accomplish progress in Jacmel. The youth will probably postpone their first sexual experience, change partners less often, and will more systematically use condoms, thanks to the demonstration by ASON on how to use condoms.
This awareness and motivation campaign of ASON in the South-East supported a statement by Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joined United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), who confirmed that the effects of prevention “do not rely on technological breakthroughs, but on breakthroughs in the matter of determination.”