Telling the stories of people with AIDS in Rural Haiti
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Attitude to Health
Community Health Services
For 20 years, Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Haiti's Artibonite Valley has struggled with the evolving acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic. Initial efforts to confront the disease met numerous obstacles including denial, stigmatization, powerlessness, and mistrust. Over time, HAS and local community organizations developed a new approach to the AIDS problem. The first step in this approach flowed from the founding principle of HAS: Reverence for Life; hospital staff and community leaders provided hospice care to people dying of AIDS. Caring for people with AIDS and hearing the stories of people with AIDS quickly generated sympathy and a personal sense of vulnerability among community leaders and created a desire for community human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) education and prevention. Using the stories of people with AIDS as a basis, a community education program was launched. More than 1,000 church leaders, voodoo priests, and schoolteachers were trained. The majority of these leaders returned to their communities and started creative and unexpected initiatives to confront the AIDS problem.