Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Optimism

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Optimism

Article excerpt

"You have to be an optimist here, despite all the odds. Otherwise, pack your bags and leave." That's what Dr. Jean Pape, the founder and director of the first HIV voluntary counseling and testing center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, told Science magazine last year. Known as GHESKIO (Groupe Haitien d'Etudes du Sarcome de Kaposi et des Infections Opportunistes), the center conducts nearly twenty thousand HIV tests a year and provides free antiretroviral drugs to approximately eight thousand individuals. Its nurses and physicians also treat patients for active tuberculosis, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, and its psychologists offer HIV/AIDS and rape counseling. In addition, GHESKIO is one of several global trial sites for three HIV vaccine trials.

Haiti has the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Most Haitians do not have formal jobs. Only about half of the population over fifteen years old can read and write, and less than 30 percent of primary school children will reach the sixth grade. Yet every morning and afternoon in Port-au-Prince--where a large percentage of the population live in extreme poverty with no electricity, sanitation, or portable water--children can be seen walking to and from privately run schools wearing their distinctive uniforms and backpacks.

A few of those children may grow up to become doctors, nurses, or pharmacists like those in the research ethics course I taught last fall for public health students at the Quisqueya University Medical School. …

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