In a provocative challenge to traditional assumptions, a high-powered team from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince will arrive in Canada next week. They will have detailed discussion with AIDS organisations in Vancouver, to help both cities tackle HIV-AIDS more effectively.
“For years, foreign experts have descended on Haiti ,” says Jon Tinker of the Panos Institute of Canada, the Vancouver-based non-profit organising the visit. “Too often, they effectively undermine and devalue Haitian experience. We are deliberately reversing this.”
“AIDS organisations from each city will be challenging each other to serve their communities more effectively,” says team leader Dr André Jolicoeur. “We are going to share our experiences and insights in a spirit of equality and mutual respect.”
The eleven Haitian AIDS leaders and practitioners include three young actors who use street theatre to educate youth about AIDS, and Esther Boucicault, who shocked respectable Haitians in 1998 when she used a live TV show to announce that she was HIV-positive.
In Ottawa, on November 27, the team will visit the Department of Foreign Affairs to brief federal officials on the AIDS situation in their country.
In Vancouver from November 28, they will have dozens of small meetings with their Vancouver counterparts, culminating in a public dialogue at Simon Fraser University on World AIDS Day, Monday December 1st. They will be guests of honour at a concert in Christ Church Cathedral, and lay a wreath at the Vancouver AIDS Memorial.
“There is a misleading picture of developing countries as helpless and lacking expertise,” says Tinker. Before the Haitians have even arrived, Vancouver AIDS organisations have already identified ways in which their experience can directly help Vancouver address some of the city’s AIDS challenges, he says. “In one of the richest cities in the world, and in one of the poorest, the face of HIV-AIDS is remarkably similar.”
The visit is a project of Panos Canada and Panos Caribbean, part of the global Panos Network of eight non-profits dedicated to provoking media and public dialogue on critical global challenges. It is supported in Vancouver by the Dr Peter Centre, Simon Fraser University, the city’s AIDS coordinating group CHAC, and many other AIDS service organisations. (Panos)