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

Photogallery US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid