Treating AIDS: Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention

By Thurka Sangaramoorthy | Go to book overview

5
Treating the Nation
Health Disparities and the Politics of Difference

During my time in Miami, I worked with a variety of public health professionals who advocated for better health outcomes for Haitians. A majority of these providers supported and diligently championed increasingly compartmentalized programming initiatives that sought to personalize prevention messages according to various social categories of difference such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Rosi Jacques, a Haitian American prevention provider at the Miami-Dade Department of Health, was one such provider with whom I worked closely in understanding the landscape of HIV/AIDS prevention services for Haitians in Miami. She repeatedly expressed concerns about health initiatives aimed at specific racial and ethnic groups. Her sentiments mirrored those I often heard from other providers working with Haitians:

Now, imagine that when you go into a population like the Haitian com-
munity, you can’t just say “OK. This is HIV. This is what it is, this is what
it’s not” because there are so many other things that need to be taught
before you can even you can get to that level.

In order for the people to actually grasp the whole concept of very
basic HIV information, there needs to a whole type of work that needs to
be done at another level before they’re even ready to tackle that informa-
tion, because remember a lot of Haitians that come here … you know,
they don’t read, they don’t write, there’s a lot of superstition, you know,
so how are you going to then come down and say “Oh, this is just a virus
that comes in from secretions” … you know—Whoa! What is a virus?
What is the difference between a virus and bacteria? What do you mean
by secretions? You mean somebody just put roots on their hands … you
understand?

-107-

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