At the dormitory of the prison for minors, located in an old barrack of the district of Fort-National (North-East of Port-au-Prince), 26 prisoners live together, incarcerated for different motives.
Among them is an adolescent of 15 years: J.G., born in Jeremie, a secondary city located in the South-West of Haiti, some 365 kilometers from the capital.
Physically fragile but endowed with a good intelligence, J.G is the oldest of a modest family. His mother used to sell tobacco and his late father was a former school principal in Jeremie.
By the time he reached first grade in a college in his home town, J.G had to abandon school because of financial hardship.
Hit by the growing poverty of his family and influenced by a friend James, he decided to come to the capital Port-au-Prince, which he believed to be the symbol of hope.
In Port-au-Prince, he started a life on the margins, strolling around the whole city. Starting off as a car washer, he finally ended up in a cartel of Bicentenaire nicknamed “ the cartel of villains.”
One night, on 15 February 2000, he was caught red-handed, together with friends, steeling from a container, which had arrived from the Dominican Republic.
Beaten and neutralized by the police, he was thrown in jail to serve a sentence, which is still not established by a court, Joseph Mary Magg Gracieux said, the director of the prison.
However, J.G recognizes his guilt and promises not to commit another offense.
Prison life is different from street life. Deprived of freedom, tormented by regret, annoyance and all types of aches, he grumbles in these terms: “Here, everything is the opposite. I feel dehumanized and only see the negative. The prison walls are the only witnesses of my troubles. One day, I hope to get out of this mess.”
He continues by saying that the present situation is weakening his health.
The lesions on his skin are due to the bad quality of the water and to the general unhealthiness in which he dwells, he complains.
As to the severe body pains he has, he traces those to the mortal kicks given by police officers following his arrest.
One day when he was in deep sleep on top of a vehicle, a naughty lad threw him on the ground. This fall left him with serious problems of muscle joints, thus explaining his sickly status.
The prison doctor, Norma Petit-Frere, thinks otherwise.
It all began, she said, with the frequent manifestation of certain worrying classical symptoms such as chronic diarrhea and a remarkable loss of weight.
Based on these preliminary results, she immediately recommended an HIV antibody test in a specialized laboratory of the GHESKIO Centres (Haitian Study Group of Karposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections).
The results of the exam revealed that J.G was infected by the HIV virus.
After this became known, the medical staff of the prison decided to treat him with leniency while checking on his meals and his relationships with other children. However, all these efforts stumbled over the numerous structural gaps which prevail in the prison.
In the most complete ignorance of his HIV positive status, J.G affirmed that he only has had one protected sexual intercourse with a prostitute, a few months before his arrest.
Quetty Moise, the social worker in charge of the case, argues against this statement and relates the story of this street child who led in the past a high risk and active sexual life.
Till now, the illness of J.G. remains a secret to the other prisoners. They would give him a hard time if they were informed, Mrs Quetty Moise said.
Yvrose Vernet works as prison nurse since 5 years. She provides J.G. with her best aid by applying Permanganate for skin affectations and antibiotics against episodic diarrheas, as well as proteins to revitalize his energy.
Until now, the results of these efforts are far from conclusive. Yvrose Vernet recognizes that J.G.’s case is getting worse. “I am terribly sick,” J.G. cries courageously.
According to Quetty Moise and Yvrose Vernet, the risk of contamination is very high in the cell where J.G. lives. Because, should there be homosexual practice, it will automatically be a tragedy. They suggest that he is kept apart from the other children, or be transferred to a centre specialized in palliative treatment.
Given the seriousness of the situation, Monique Madeus, Legal Assistant does her utmost to have him released.
Moreover, Nora Amilcar, the judge connected to the children’s court, is carrying out consultations with institutions such as the Institute for Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), which is willing to come to the aid of this child in difficulty.
The problem is delicate because J.G. has no parents in Port-au-Prince and it is difficult to track his mother, Quetty Moise said.
Despite being seropositive, he is a child full of talents. He has a solid spirit. His combativeness, his good sense, his collaborative spirit and his optimism has made him a model child in the prison.
He has good tastes for fine-art and likes music. His favorite instrument is the snare drum.
He nurtures the hope to move to a rehabilitation centre, to learn a profession and become an honest man, fulfilling his civic duties towards his country.