Haiti

Haiti: Celeste - "Sometimes I don't have food to take with my medication"

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JACMEL, 31 October 2008 (PLUSNEWS) - Celeste*, 15, contracted HIV from her mother at birth. She lives in Jacmel on the southeast coast of Haiti, which was battered in August and September by four successive hurricanes, and has been receiving assistance from a local NGO for people living with HIV, called KALMI (Haitian Collective for a Better Life - "Kombit Ayisyen Pou Lavi Miyo").

She talked to IRIN/PlusNews about the HIV-related discrimination she has experienced, the recent rape she suffered, and being made homeless by the hurricanes.

"I discovered my status when my mother died in 2005. I was often having skin problems, but my mother never told me [I was HIV positive]. I think she didn't want to upset me. My little sister, who is seven, is also positive.

"After my mother died, my step-father was supposed to be responsible for us, but we didn't stay with him. I lived with my brother, who is 18, and my sister.

"The night it [the rape] happened, it was raining so my brother stayed at my aunt's. A man was following me during the day and then he came to my house and raped me. When I tried to struggle, he struck me in the eye with his gun. I've lost my sight in that eye.

"Our house isn't habitable since the hurricane, so I'm staying with Marie Lucie [KALMI's founder]. It's only KALMI that's helping me. My family humiliates me [because of my status], even my brother. At school, the other students won't sit next to me.

"I'm on ARVs [antiretrovirals] now, but sometimes I don't have food to take with my medication. I still have a fever often, and my eye hurts.

"One day, I want to be a doctor so I can heal people."

*Not her real name

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