Tue, Jul 16, 2013
On July 8th, 2013 I started a journey with Youseline, Estania, and Melinda. The goal was to speak to the girls about their HIV status and start educating them on what they should expect for the future. Since January this year I have been preparing for this moment. I went and spoke to many of Lia’s friends to see if she had any plans in the works. I signed up for classes on line on how to deliver a positive result to a patient. I sought out help from 2 amazing women who started a class for girls on life education. I spoke with all the doctors, nurses and psychologist at the HIV clinic here in Jacmel as well as a few in Port au Prince and in the US. Every fee moment I had I spent practicing what I would say, how I would start the conversation, and how to answer any questions they may have after. Even with all this preparation I was still terrified of the conversation we were about to have.
I had decided that I was going to take the girls for a short getaway to deliver the news. After speaking with all the people I spoke with we all agreed that it would be good to tell them somewhere quiet and away from all the other kids who may cause too much disruption in the girls spirits. I had read that Port Salut, Haiti was a lazy beach town where people often go for peace and quiet. They have beautiful beaches and a waterfall with a cave (very small cave, but still cool). This seemed like a good choice and 2 of the girls are part fish and love the water.
On Monday we left Jacmel around 6am to catch a bus to Port au Prince where we would catch a second bus to Les Cayes only to grab a third and final bus to Port Salut. it was a long trip but the girls were excited for a beach getaway. We arrived around 4:30-5:00pm and immediately started investigating the hotels I had hear about. In the end the one I had originally planned to stay in the girls hated! I was forced to find another Hotel to make sure they were in a good space to receive the info they were about to receive.
Once we had our room (it was a small hut right on the beach) we took a really nice walk down the beach and ordered some fried fish and bananas. We took our meals home and ate in our little beach hut. Once our bellies were full we cleaned up and started our talk. I asked them if anyone had ever sat down with them in past to speak to them about why they were on medications? They said that Lia had told them they were supposed to keep them healthy but never went it to the “why” of the matter. I explained what each medication does. I explained the different functions of the blood. After a bit I asked if they had ever heard anyone talk about HIV. All said no, then Estania’s eyes started to water. Melinda laughed and joked and then blurted out “OH AIDS!!, AIDS is a bad word”. I continued to speak to them about HIV and AIDS and that AIDS is not a bad word and neither of the 2 should be feared. I told them that no of this changes who they are, that they are still the same smart, sweet beautiful girls that so many people love. I made sure they understood that they have support and that HIV is not something that they should look at as scary. We spoke of stigmas and how they may encounter ignorant uneducated people throughout their lives that may say mean things.
We spoke for around an hour. Once we were done Estania and Melinda asked if we could go out and get some sodas, Youseline asked if we could just take a walk. I went with Youseline and a friend of our who came with us took the other 2 girls out for soda. Youseline broke down and cried in my arms for 20 mins. She said nothing and didn’t want to talk, she just griped me tightly and quietly wept.
The next morning Estania woke up and jumped in her bathing suit. She was very persistent about needing to swim right away. while breakfast was being prepared we started swimming and ended up spending the better part of the morning in the water. She stared to change and had a confidant glow about her as we learned how to swim together. Youseline stayed to her self all morning and sat on the beach listening to our iPod. Melinda stayed in the room and napped.
I spoke to Youseline and asked how she was doing? She was not well. She felt sad and overwhelmed but she said she was ok with what I had told her. She told me she really didn’t know why she felt this way and started to cry. I held her close and asked if she would come swim with me. I told her that in many cultures people believe that the ocean is a powerful spirit that has the ability to help clean the soul. At first she said no but around 2pm she showed up in her rainbow bikini and jumped in to the water. Estania grabbed on to her and caught her up on swim lessons. We stayed in the water till dusk and Melinda came and watched us from the beach. That evening the vibe lightened up and the girls laughed and cracked jokes as we played Uno and drank sodas near the water. They were smiling and asking what the plan was for the next day……….. WATERFALLS!!!!