From Haiti, a surprise: good news about AIDS

Published: July 5, 2009

From Haiti, a surprise: good news about AIDS

Infection rate has plummeted due to education, medical programs

BLANCHARD, Haiti – When Micheline Leon was diagnosed with HIV, her parents told her they would fit her for a coffin.

Fifteen years later, she walks around her two-room concrete house on Haiti’s central plateau, watching her four children play under the plantain trees. She looks healthy, her belly amply filling a gray, secondhand T-shirt. Her three sons and one daughter were born after she was diagnosed. None has the virus.

"I’m not sick," she explained patiently on a recent afternoon. "People call me sick but I’m not. I’m infected."

In many ways the 35-year-old mother’s story is Haiti’s too. In the early 1980s, when the strange and terrifying disease showed up in the U.S. among migrants who had escaped Haiti’s dictatorship, experts thought it could wipe out a third of the country’s population.

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