WORLD AIDS DAY 2002 CARIBBEAN TOUR:
Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico
International AIDS Prevention Initiative's ("IAPI)" 2002 World AIDS Day Caribbean tour visited organizations in Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Using the model created for South Africa, programs were offered that consist of panelmaking workshops, HIV/AIDS curriculum-based lessons for students, Sistering Program, New Panel Kit Program, and technical assistance in sharing HIV/AIDS programs from around the world.
Haiti: The first stop and quilt display was in Port-au-Prince. Those who did not have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the Quilt were very curious to learn about its history and mission. Elsy M. Guibert, a Public Health Specialist and graduate of Columbia University School of Public Health, made several presentations before young audiences and PWAs (People With AIDS). Amidst a chaotic political climate which put a halt to many activities in the capital, the health sector remained committed and kept to their schedule of events.
The Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Claude Surena, was the first official to welcome the Quilt in his downtown office. However, the AIDS crisis has become a multi-sectorial fight and involves different sectors of the Haitian society namely communities of faith, businessmen, schools and civil servants. During the initial display, dozens of Ministry employees came to view the Quilt and asked questions regarding its origin and purpose. The next display took place during an AIDS ceremony at the Methodist Church of College Bird, located in a heavily populated area. Hundreds of young people were in attendance. The panels on display were from South Africa and were deemed appropriate as they portrayed the lives of children who have died from AIDS.
Another event was held at the offices of POZ (Promoteurs Objectif Zero Sida). Dr. Eddy Genece, POZ Executive Director and a valiant AIDS educator for the past 15 years, discussed the strategies needed to mobilize their clients. Dr. Genece facilitated contacts among his staff to coordinate panelmaking sessions in subsequent months. During the open house on December 1st, two Quilt panels from Belgium and Venezuela were on display.
Jamaica: The second country visited was Jamaica where IAPI met with JNPlus, a Self Support Group for PWA's and their supporters in Kingston. Through the world of the Internet and email, the group expressed a great interest in the offered programs. What started out as an overview presentation turned into Kingston, first panelmaking workshop. Nine women and three men attended this powerful day of education, compassion, and shared what it is like to be HIV+ in Jamaica. In Jamaica, many of those infected choose not to disclose their status even to their own families, they live in silence, in fear of retribution or shame.
With the help of IAPI's Threads of Hope (New Panel Kit) Program, panelmaking because the focus of the day-long workshop. The group made panels for fellow PWAs who have died. The power of healing through panelmaking has never been clearer that what was experienced that day.
Puerto Rico: The tour's final stop was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was a return visit for the Quilt. Thanks to Tom Koontz, owner of a local newspaper, The Breeze, associated with the Health Department's World AIDS Day event. Portions of the International Quilt from South Africa, Venezuela, and Belgium were displayed,
What is special about this event is that those who attended wearing red T-shirts provided by the Health Department, formed a human AIDS ribbon. Local celebrities provided entertainment. Local florists donated thousands of flowers, and at the conclusion of the event, participants were invited to walk to the sea and toss the flower into the water speaking the name of a lost loved one. This was a powerful event that brought the community together in remembrance.