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CARICOM in the News

March 1, 2010

Minister to address security issues at CARICOM meeting

To OAS or not to OAS: That is the question

Minister of State responsible for Immigration Resigns

March 1, 2010

The Hon. W. A. Branville McCartney has resigned from the Cabinet as Minister of State Responsible for Immigration. Until a replacement is announced we are asking that you send your letters to the Hon. Brent Symonette, Minister of National Security. The Minister’s contact information has been included on the Write For Justice page.

Cabinet Minister in shock resignation

Branville McCartney BambooTown: Press Statement By W.A Branville McCartney on his resignation as Minister Of State for Immigration. 1st March 2010.

Protecting Haitian Material Heritage

February 28, 2010

We’ve spent a lot of time — quite rightly — talking about the human cost of the earthquake. However, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that human beings are also creative beings, and that we leave records of our time on earth in the material artifacts that we leave behind — buildings, art, literature, and so on.

One of the tragedies of the earthquake was that so much of this material culture was affected in Haiti. It’s become commonplace to say that Haiti and Haitians are very culturally alive, but what effect did the earthquake have on this patrimony?

I’ve posted before, but just want to note that the Digital Library of the Caribbean (DLoC) is working with the Haitian government and its people to salvage, collect, and rebuild this heritage.

For more about it, go here:

Protecting Haiti Patrimony Report

The sleeping catastrophe: HIV/AIDS in Haiti

February 26, 2010

The sleeping catastrophe: HIV/AIDS in Haiti – Part 1

By Matayo Moshi, COHA Research Associate: The re-emergence of HIV/AIDS

Haiti has been a broken country at the best of times. The devastating January 12 earthquake has thrown the drastically poor nation under the world spotlight once again, but for all the wrong reasons. At times, it would seem like the very planet itself was conspiring against this small, humble, Caribbean nation.

Even, on its best of days, Haiti is crippled by endemic poverty, which is further compounded by the inexperience as well as the corrupted nature of its government. With an estimated 230,000 casualties, the social and economic consequences of the earthquake will incontrovertibly reverberate throughout Haitian society for generations.

Moreover, with the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, now in ruins and the vestiges of health care infrastructure all but destroyed, little care is available to those who need it most, especially those requiring specialized assistance, this includes the 120,000 Haitian people currently living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

The global pandemic

Human-Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, was first identified in 1981. Since then, the virus has resulted in the deaths of over 25 million people worldwide, making it the most socio-economically expensive pandemic in human history. As of 2007, according to the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), over 33.5 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS.

The virus does not discriminate. In the United States nearly 1.6 million people live with HIV, with as many as 350,000 with no knowledge of their being infected with the virus. In Washington, D.C. alone, nearly 3 percent of all residents are currently living with, or are affected by HIV.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has called it a “generalized and severe epidemic,” as the rate of infection in the Washington D.C. area is greater than it is in some West African countries. Upon signing the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Act last year, President Barack Obama said; “We often speak about AIDS as if it’s going on somewhere else, and for good reason […] but often overlooked is the fact that we face a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic of our own — right here in Washington, D.C., and right here in the United States of America.” Clearly, HIV is everyone’s problem.

Globally, HIV/AIDS is a complex and contentious issue. In both the developed and developing worlds, there still persists a widespread stigma, fear, and a sense of shame and denial concerning HIV/AIDS, especially in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In order to alleviate the consequences of HIV/AIDS, organizations like UNAIDS encourage countries to provide universal access of information and treatment to high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, young people, children and orphans.

However, many governments still enforce legislation that hinders efforts at curtailing the global pandemic. In 2007, Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, one of the countries most severely affected by HIV/AIDS (more than 15 percent are HIV-positive), received widespread criticism among AIDS experts for advocating a position of AIDS denialism during his presidency. Such controversial policies further stigmatize those infected with HIV, reinforcing its role as ‘The Silent Killer’ as a result of people being ashamed to get tested and receive treatment.

Despite labor and cost intensive worldwide research into HIV/AIDS, no vaccine or cure has yet to be discovered. Modern anti-retroviral treatments (ART) have reduced HIV infection from a certain death sentence to a lifelong chronic illness. In developed countries where ART is easily accessible, people living with HIV (PLWHIV) are able to adhere to strict Highly Active Anti-retroviral Treatment (HAART), which can suppress the disease progression of HIV almost indefinitely.

HIV is a pathogenic lentivirus, emanating from the retrovirus family. The virus causes disease progression within the human body by destroying the host’s immune system. The virus targets CD4+ T Lymphocyte cells – the primary defense mechanism of the human immune system. HIV inserts its own genetic code into the host cell’s DNA, forcing the infected cell to produce new HIV upon activation. Lentiviruses are generally slow acting; it can take as little as a few months or up to as many as 20 years for the virus to progress to active disease.

Almost all people infected with HIV eventually develop a condition known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection. It is important to realize that HIV and AIDS are not one and the same; a person who has developed AIDS is infected with HIV, but a person infected with HIV does not necessarily have AIDS.

In most cases, once AIDS is diagnosed, the immune system has been irreparably compromised. AIDS patients typically develop one or more of 26 opportunistic infections that have been identified as AIDS defining illnesses. These range from mild bacterial infections, such as Candidiasis (thrush) to serious cancerous conditions, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma or non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

HIV/AIDS in Haiti

When the HIV/AIDS pandemic first emerged in the 1980’s, Haitians suffered widespread discrimination as the country’s rates of infection skyrocketed. The country’s name became almost synonymous with the virus.

Furthermore, Haiti suffered regional – almost pariah status – isolation when it was alleged that emigrating Haitians had introduced the virus to the United States. At one time, the CDC greatly offended Haiti by listing the country under the 4 H’s moniker – hemophilia, homosexuality, heroin use, and Haitian – to describe the demographic groups most at risk for an HIV/AIDS infection. During the presidency of Jean-Claude Duvalier, in an unfounded attempt to remedy Haiti’s tarnished health performance, it was illegal to mention AIDS – and later HIV – in any form whatsoever.

According to the World Bank, Haiti spends no more that $8 per capita on health care annually and has only 2.5 physicians per every 10,000 people. It is no surprise, then, that HIV/AIDS has been a leading cause of death among Haitians for more than 20 years.

The introduction of effective and free treatment programs provided by organizations such as the Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (GHESKIO) has significantly improved lives. However, Haiti’s HIV/AIDS incidence rate is still one of the highest on Earth, with up to 3 percent of all adults, aged 15 – 49, infected with the virus.

Furthermore, unlike its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, the main highway of transmission in Haiti is unprotected heterosexual intercourse. Despite these troubling statistics, HIV/AIDS infection had been on a steady decline before the earthquake, but many experts now fear that this could change very quickly.

The recent disaster has the potential to damage the treatment and care momentum that Haiti has been building, as the international focus on the island inexorably shifts further toward urgent humanitarian and reconstruction efforts relative to the January 12 earthquake. Among AIDS experts there is real fear being felt that the earthquake will pull resources away from coping with HIV/AIDS.

For over 27 years, GHESKIO has been providing life-saving treatment and therapy to tens of thousands of Haitians living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. This organization provides free HIV voluntary counseling and testing, AIDS care, tuberculosis treatment, reproductive health services, and management of sexually transmitted diseases. GHESKIO is one of many programs worldwide that has received sizable funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an initiative started by the Bush administration to address the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

PEPFAR’s initial $15 billion five-year plan (2003-2008) provided ART to over 2 million PLWHIV, while at the same time preventing an estimated seven million new HIV infections. A 2009 Stanford study found that PEPFAR had reduced global death rate due to AIDS by some 10 percent in the countries involved, including Haiti.

The success of the five-year plan prompted by the State Department Office of Global AIDS Coordination seeks to renew PEPFAR until 2013 with an extended $48 billion budget.

The sleeping catastrophe: HIV/AIDS in Haiti – Pt. 2

By Matayo Moshi, COHA Research Associate:

The re-emergenceof HIV/AIDS

South America helps Haiti

February 25, 2010

South American countries are showing their solidarity with Haiti – and are doing some important things to ensure Haiti receives concrete aid and assistance with re-building that is locally led. The Union of South American Nations has also asked its members to support and help Haitian migrants in their countries. Furthermore, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas has agreed to cancel any debt Haiti has with their countries. Check out the complete details in this report from the International Action Center:

“South American countries give concrete aid to Haiti”
By Berta Joubert-Ceci

The Union of South American Nations — UNASUR — held an emergency meeting on Feb. 9 in Quito, Ecuador, to examine the situation in Haiti after the earthquake and make plans for short- and long-term assistance to the destroyed nation. Exterior ministers and special envoys from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela and the presidents of Colombia, Paraguay and Peru joined current UNASUR President Rafael Correa from Ecuador and Haitian President René Préval.

This meeting took place 11 days after Correa visited Haiti to personally assess the situation. He was accompanied by the Health and the Risk Commission Secretaries (both women) and a delegation of physicians, rescue workers, experts in clinical and intensive therapy and in the management of natural disasters, and specialists in plastic, vascular and emergency surgeries.

UNASUR’s integral plan

These countries, many of them rich in natural resources but impoverished by centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism by the countries of the North, particularly the United States, unanimously agreed to help in the reconstruction of Haiti in the three main areas proposed by Préval: infrastructure and energy, agriculture and health. Their work will be fully coordinated and approved by the government and the people of Haiti. “They will tell us about the progress that we make and the needs that they have,” stated Correa. (Telesurtv.com, Feb. 9)

Some of the concrete actions will include providing materials, machinery and engineers to work on infrastructure, particularly in the construction of roads and electrical networks, plus studying the impact of gas as an alternative source of energy. The countries will provide specialists, seeds, fertilizers and other resources for the reconstruction of the agricultural sector. They will supplement the actions already implemented by the South American Health Council and help in joint actions to funnel humanitarian aid and reconstruction coordinated by the Haitian government.

These measures are in addition to providing other necessities such as tents and the construction of emergency shelters as well as the development of a reforestation program.

UNASUR is also encouraging its member states that have not yet done so to apply special processes to regulate the migratory status of Haitians in their countries, assist in the educational sector, temporarily eliminate any tariffs to Haitian export products, stimulate investments by South American enterprises that use local Haitian labor, and cancel any Haitian external debt.

In what Correa described as “South-to-South cooperation,” UNASUR approved $100 million for aid, and will request an additional $200 million in a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, to be paid, not by Haiti, but by the UNASUR countries in a 15-to-20-year repayment plan with minimum interest.

In another show of solidarity from the South, the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) countries, of which Ecuador is also a member, recently decided to cancel any debt that Haiti held with their countries.

Migratory amnesty signed by Ecuador

To ease the lives of undocumented Haitians living in Ecuador, President Correa signed a decree on Feb. 9 legalizing their migratory status. In addition, those Haitians who arrived in Ecuador before Jan. 31 will receive their immigrant visa completely free. These measures will legalize the status of 15,000 immigrants from Haiti. This will also help to open the doors to their families who are still in the Caribbean nation.

Via International Action Center, 22 Feb 2010

Art Exhibit in Nassau – Benefit for Haiti

February 25, 2010

One night only – art exhibition to raise funds to help re-build orphanages in Haiti – March 4th at the Nassau Yacht Club 5:30 – 10pm, Nassau, Bahamas. Spread the Word!

“Bahamian Art to make a difference in Haiti”

By JEFFARAH GIBSON

THE entire world felt the “shake”, heard the cries, and watched as tears trickled down the faces of victims devastated by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince last month and for that moment made television viewers stop to think “this could be me”.

With that in mind, people all around the world are coming together to bring healing to the nation of Haiti and its people.

And likewise, in the spirit of benevolence and humanitarianism Bahamian fine artists and photographers are also joining forces in a “one night only” art exhibition to raise funds for orphanages that were demolished in the disaster.

This, however, is no ordinary showcase, works of all different mediums will be exhibited.

And while art aims to express an idea or belief, the show goes beyond simply telling a story, or sharing an experience. It aims to get others involved in something of a much greater value.

A heartwarming experience, the art show not only seeks to attract art fanatics, but those who can afford to render their time to a worthy initiative also.

“What we need right now is support from any and everyone. This is a big deal because any funds that we raise will be donated to rebuild orphanages in Haiti,” said Christina Aylen, organizer of the show. “If you love art come out, you might find a piece that you like, if you don’t like art still come because there are other things that can be donated,” she said.

See full article in The Tribune

Feb Push – Letter Writing

February 25, 2010

Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity is getting quite a bit of local press in The Bahamas – letters / op-ed’s in the papers, two radio shows, and we are scheduled for a third radio show soon.

Specifically, the Letter Writing Campaign got some excellent press this week – three of the co-founders of Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity (Erin Greene, Angelique V. Nixon, &  Nicolette Bethel) appeared on “Plugged In” with Anku Sa Ra and Leah E. this past Tuesday on Island FM 102.9. We had a productive conversation about migration, immigration, history, politics, and the connections & relationship between Haitians and Bahamians. Nicolette provided important information about migration numbers, which she has made available here on the website  – please check this out and share with others. We also promoted the letter writing campaign.

If you haven’t sent in your letter as yet, please remember we are pushing for a strong response in Feb! Please make sure your voice is heard and that you show your support for Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity!

If you have any suggestions, comments, and ideas, please share with us.