News / Health

    Shunned by Family, Haitian Orphan Finds Supportive Home

    Shunned by Family, Haitian Orphan Finds Supportive Homei
    X
    July 21, 2014 7:16 PM
    For decades the Caribbean nation of Haiti has been plagued with the highest prevalence of HIV in the Western hemisphere. Consequently, more than a hundred-thousand children have been orphaned; many contracted the virus from their mothers. We introduce you to one young woman who has worked tirelessly to overcome hardships in her life including shame of being orphaned and HIV positive.
    Jeff Swicord

    Haiti has been plagued with the highest prevalence of HIV infection in the Western Hemisphere. While it has declined significantly – from nearly 10 percent of those screened a decade ago to 3.7 percent as of 2012 – AIDS-related deaths have taken a toll on the Caribbean nation’s children. Roughly 100,000 of those age 17 and younger are orphans of the disease, according to the most recent count provided to UNICEF.

    Some 12,000 of Haiti’s youngsters are infected, with many contracting the disease from their mothers, the United Nations' program UNAIDS reports. Two children are born with HIV every day through mother-to-child transmission.

    Fear and misunderstanding worsens the disease’s impact, as Venise Louis knows.

    A slender, pretty 21-year-old, Venise was 11 when her mother died of what she later learned was an AIDS-related illness. The girl was left orphaned and living with an aunt in Port-au-Prince.

    Venise remembers that, as a child, she was weak and often sick. Her aunt usually treated her ailments at home. But when she became gravely ill, Venise was taken to Gheskio Centers, an HIV/AIDS-focused health institution, where she tested positive for HIV infection.

    Venise, then 14, found no comfort at home.

    Venise Louis says relatives mistreated her because of her HIV infection.Venise Louis says relatives mistreated her because of her HIV infection.
    x
    Venise Louis says relatives mistreated her because of her HIV infection.
    Venise Louis says relatives mistreated her because of her HIV infection.

    “My aunt’s boyfriend told her to separate everything I used: silverware, glasses, soap,” Venise recalls. “I slept in a separate part of the house, and I couldn’t play with the other kids.”

    Her aunt would not allow her to attend school, fearing she could infect another child if she had a cut or scrape.  

    “They told me that if I did not do what they say, they will kick me out of the house and I will be in the streets, like a prostitute, sleeping with men,” Venise says of her aunt and the boyfriend. “And they will not accept me back.”

    Needed medical care

    She begged her aunt to take her for medical treatment.

    “I used to cry a lot every day,” Venise says. “My aunt told me the only way I am going to get treatment is under the earth when I am dead.”

    She moved in with another aunt, who sporadically took her for treatment at a hospital. There, a nurse referred her to a psychologist, and Venise disclosed the mistreatment at home. The psychologist suggested placing her at a home run by Caring for Haitian Orphans With AIDS Inc., a nonprofit charity.

    Venise arrived at the orphanage in 2009 physically underdeveloped, bone-thin and weak. She was shy, withdrawn and cried a lot.  

    “I did not feel good at all. I did not feel like a normal person,” she recalls. “And by the way my aunt treated me, I thought life wasn't meant to be good for me.”

    ‘Focus on living’

    That changed at CHOAIDS, whose “entire existence is working against stigma,” Marie Denis-Luque, the organization’s founder, says in an email to VOA. “We deal with stigma by ... making life as normal for the kids as possible.

    “For instance, we do not have a sign to identify the type of work we do at the house. We do not focus so much on disease. Rather, we focus on living.”

    All 19 children at the orphanage attend regular schools, Denis-Luque says. Venise, who’s finishing the fourth grade, “has learned to read and is very dedicated to her education.”

    When she’s not studying, Venise helps with household chores, including preparing meals for the entire household when the cook is off duty. She’s learning to crochet and bake.

    Denis-Luque says CHOAIDS also educates the young residents about HIV, the importance of taking their antiretroviral medications, “and what happens if they do not take them, and we prepare them for the future.”

    The children receive their antiretroviral pills twice a day.

    “When she started getting regular treatment, she started to gain weight,” the orphanage’s director, Frantz Herold, says of Venise. “She started to get better physically and mentally.”

    She also got treatment for tuberculosis, Denis-Luque says. HIV is the strongest risk factor for developing TB, according to UNAIDS. TB, an opportunistic disease, can impair lung function and waste the body.  

    An uncomfortable reunion

    At VOA’s request, Venise’s aunts agreed to visit her at the orphanage. One of them, Genese, denies any mistreatment of the girl: “If somebody told you that, it is not true. Especially when she was sick, we never abused her.”

    Venise remembers things differently: “If they say they did not do that, then they are lying, because they did.”

    Her aunts want to put the past behind them, but Venise still harbors too much pain and anguish to forget.

    “When I become older, I will let them know what they did to me was wrong,” she says. “For now, I want to finish school, learn a trade and never go back to live with my family again.”

    Someday, Venise says, she hopes to work at the orphanage to help other young people living with HIV.

    VOA's Carol Guensburg contributed to this report.

    Venise Louis, at far right, joins in watching cartoons at a Haitian orphanage for HIV-positive children.
    Venise Louis, at far right, joins in watching cartoons at a Haitian orphanage for HIV-positive children.

     

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Steve Isidor from: Miramar, FL
    July 22, 2014 8:45 AM
    This is a very sad story. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who are under educated about the H.I.V virus. Venise, has demonstrated that she is a very strong and brave individual. She has more character than both of her aunts and I hope she lives a full and satisfying life.
    Steve Isidor
    Pawol Serye

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora