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Haiti's AIDS Orphans: Left Alone


Center for Health Communication
Jay A. Winsten, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Center Director 

Highlights from this week's issue of Harvard's World Health News (

Haiti's AIDS Orphans:  Left Alone

"Will ignorance, poverty and disease destroy this generation of children? Or will the children prevail, move forward and help teach others how to build a new kind of future?"

(South Florida Sun-Sentinel) -- "Here is the first thing to know about Haiti, the bare and brown western claw of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola: It is a nation of children. Gray hair is getting harder and harder to find. Eight million people live here. Four million are under age 14. Too many of them are children without parents. Today, a large slice of their generation -- by some official accounts, 250,000 -- has lost one parent or both to AIDS. The global epidemic, now in its 25th year, has killed more than 400,000 people in Haiti. It has killed tens of thousands more throughout the Caribbean, steppingstone islands in Florida's backyard and one of the largest tourist playgrounds on Earth. The number of children orphaned by AIDS will likely continue to grow. Experts see no end in sight. They voice concern: If things don't veer from their current path, Caribbean society, and the Caribbean economy that relies heavily on tourism, will suffer more. The best and brightest professionals, the thinkers, the artists, will leave. And the young people who in the past have grown to be waiters, bartenders, chefs, desk clerks, maids and managers -- the working lifeblood of the region -- simply will not be there. Tourism, as the Caribbean knows it, no longer plays much of a role in Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, the sixth poorest on Earth...The country has crumbled under three decades of political, economic, social and, finally, environmental calamity. From the air, it's easy to see which side of this once verdant island, Hispaniola, is Haiti. Look for the brown.  Look for the treeless mountains.  There's nothing much left.  Except the children. They are Haiti's last hope." 

Special reports -- with video, interactive graphics, and photo galleries -- will run in the Sun-Sentinel each Sunday through December 17. 

Democrats Plan To Revive Stem Cell Bill
(Associated Press) -- "The same embryonic stem cell bill that prompted President Bush's only veto is headed to his desk again, this time from Democrats who have it atop their agenda when they take control of Congress in January." 

The Flu: Less Sun, More Sneezing?
(The Baltimore Sun) -- "In a paper scheduled for publication next month in the journal Epidemiology and Infection, a Harvard University-led team proposes that a vitamin D deficiency caused by inadequate winter sun exposure may predispose people to infection. If this theory proves correct, it would not only solve a long-standing mystery, but could also have major public health consequences." 

Lobbyists Work To Stop, or Stall, a Trans-Fat Ban in New York City
(The Wall Street Journal) -- "In a decision with implications for restaurants and food companies nationwide, New York City is poised next week to essentially ban trans fats in restaurants. But the wrangling in the nation's largest city over one of the industry's most vexing problems may have only just begun, thanks to some quiet lobbying by McDonald's Corp. and other restaurants." 

Seattle Moves to Forefront in Global Fight To Save Lives
(The Seattle Times) -- "For people seeking money and moral support in the battle against diseases of the poor, an annual trip to the Swiss city of Geneva, home of the World Health Organization, was once considered mandatory. Today, WHO officials are just as likely to make their own pilgrimages to Seattle, headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation." 

Laws Prohibit Smoking Around Children
(USA Today) -- "Anti-tobacco forces are opening a new front in the war against smoking by banning it in private places such as homes and cars when children are present." 

U.N. Projects Bird Flu Will Cost Another $1.3 Billion
(Associated Press) -- "The U.N. on Tuesday reported progress in the fight against the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, but said that risks remain and at least $1.3 billion is still needed as the virus threatens poor regions like Africa." 

Meet the A-Team of Stem Cell Science
(The Globe and Mail, Toronto) -- "Scientists once believed all cancer cells could sprout and sustain a tumour. But proof is growing that this deadly power belongs only to a tiny subset of abnormal stem cells that had previously gone undetected. These bad seeds have now been identified as the source of cancers of the blood, breast, bone, prostate, and this week, in another finding from [Dr. John Dick, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology], the colon. The implications are staggering. Billions of dollars and decades of research may have targeted the wrong cells to cure the disease." 

That Prenatal Visit May Be Months Too Late
(The New York Times) -- "For years, women have had it drummed into them that prenatal care is the key to having a healthy baby, and that they should see a doctor as soon as they know they are pregnant. But by then, it may already be too late. Public health officials are now encouraging women to make sure they are in optimal health well in advance of a pregnancy to reduce the risk of preventable birth defects and complications." (Story may be found on WHN's Other News & Commentary page) 

For links to the full text of these and other articles, go to

World Health News is an online news digest from the Center for Health Communication of the Harvard School of Public Health, offering a combination of original reporting and links to news stories and commentaries from newspapers and magazines worldwide on pressing issues in public health. The site is designed as a resource for an international audience of policy makers and journalists, as well as public health researchers, practitioners, and advocates.

Jennifer Zeis
Managing Editor
World Health News
(617) 432-1038

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