On Wednesday 21 December 2000, several youth from Cabaret, 35 km North of the Capital, expressed their intention to practice less-risky sexual behaviour from now on. This followed a discussion meeting on the dangers related to HIV infection. All non-informed boys and girls are exposed to this.
Organized under the theme “Youth and AIDS” at a public meeting place, the exchange of thought with the youth of Cabaret, is the continuation of an initiative begun in the South East of the country by the Association for National Solidarity (ASON), an association of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and people affected by the illness.
A wave of emotion went through the audience, which counted more than 200 mostly young people, when hearing the testimony and recommendations of Saurel Beaujour, the Executive Secretary of ASON. He did not hesitate to affirm his seropositive status, acquired in 1993.
“A person infected by HIV must neither be ashamed nor go into hiding. Believe it or not, AIDS exists and its virus is so smart that it will carry an infected person to the grave, sooner or later. So young men and young women, I would like to urge you to not have early intercourse, to respect your home and family and remain faithful to your partner,” Beaujour beseeched.
Not willing to ask pity for himself, ASON’s Executive Secretary urged the youth who were listening to him, to adopt safe sexual behaviour. He also called on young women and girls to not give in to the advances of men and boys for sex without condoms.
At the same time, he denounced the “wicked men” who blackmail and sexually harass girls and women for “economic motives.” He argued that life is not a merchandise to be negotiated at the public markets. Saurel Beaujour further condemned “as criminals” those infected people voluntarily transmitting the virus to others.
“In the case of HIV infection, all the investments done by parents are compromised. This is why young people must give high priority to their studies, and submit themselves voluntarily to an HIV screening test when they decide to live together with a partner,” the Executive Secretary of ASON said.
Begerl Chery, Activities Coordinator of ASON, justified the awareness and motivation campaign of youth by emphasizing the role they play in the development of the country. The first sexual relations of young people, he said, are usually full of emotion, but without enough reflection with regard to the consequences of the act: risk of early and unwanted pregnancy, infection with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, soft chancre and vaginal herpes.
The youth of Cabaret paid close attention to the demonstration on how to use male and female condoms. The demonstration was done by ASON’s public relations person, Marie Yolene Pierre.
During the debate which followed the presentations of ASON representatives, boys and girls requested extra information on the means of transmission of the HIV virus, the availability of drugs or medicines against the disease, and the precautions to be taken to not be infected or affected.
After having earnestly saluted the courage of Saurel Beaujour, who had no fear to declare his seropositivity, the youth of Cabaret in the audience, pledged to respect their lives by refusing to have early sexual relations, and to remain faithful to their sexual partners. While promising “a smile of solidarity” to the people living with HIV/AIDS, they observed a minute of meditation to the memory of those that the disease has already taken away in their community.
The discussion meeting of ASON in Cabaret terminated in the great enthusiasm of the youth in the audience to get male and female condoms, distributed for free by ASON. They also handed out posters and information kits with, among others, recommendations for “promoting human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS.”
“Statistics on the HIV infection rate in Cabaret are unknown. However, we know that an undetermined number of young people have already succumbed to the disease in the various sectors of the community. Certain superstitious parents prefer to believe in fetishistic practices to cure their children when they fall ill,” a health agent of Cabaret told Panos.
The Health Centre of Cabaret gives away for free about 500 condoms every day, as well as an equal number in the four communal sections of Sources Matelas, Giton, Nan Galgal and Potanso, the health agent pointed out to Panos.
After Cabaret, the “awareness and motivation campaign” of ASON, carried out “through the voices of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA),” will continue in Croix-des-Bouquets, Delmas, Carrefour and Petion-Ville, in the Department of the West. It was funded by the Haitian office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).