Haiti and COVID-19, absence of disaster announced

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Jean-Michel Leprince

Port-au-Prince is slowly resuming its activities after the strange calm that followed the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. As you walk the streets and talk to people, it becomes clear that the second wave of COVID is not their main concern. Above all, they fear the insecurity, kidnappings and violence of armed gangs, which have repercussions on the country's fragile health system.

The health and humanitarian situation is very worrying. The challenge is to maintain our activities in a particularly unstable context, to maintain access to care at our structures for patients who have difficulty even getting to the hospital or obtaining appointments, specifies Julien Bartoletti, head of mission of Médecins sans frontières – Port-au-Prince. For our trauma and burn care services, we are struggling to keep up with demand. But for COVID-19, I know it's not a disaster right now.

Dr. Marie Marcelle Deschamps, Secretary General of the GHESKIO Centers (Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi Syndrome and Opportunistic Infections), is reassuring. I can say that we are in the middle of the second wave, but that we do not feel it as strongly as the first. The antibodies probably played a role, and we're probably going to achieve what we call overall immunity, we don't know. In addition, with the vaccines that are going to arrive, it will combine with the antibodies, therefore passive immunity with the immunity produced by the vaccines.

A relatively low mortality rate

Marie Marcelle Deschamps.

Dr. Marie Marcelle Deschamps is Secretary General of the GHESKIO Centers.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jean-Michel Leprince

Dr. Deschamps supervised IgG tests (the most abundant immunoglobulins; they are made upon contact with an antigen, a foreign body for the body) on 7,000 patients screened for COVID-19 in the first wave. Half of them had developed antibodies. Those who were not screened because they have little or no symptoms have also acquired some immunity.

The infection came into force in 2020 and the community, the population, fortunately is young, so there has not been a death rate as high as we have seen in Europe or North America. However, for the second wave, it is not yet necessary to claim victory, because there is also the presence of the variants., explains Dr. Deschamps.

And Haiti can now count on vaccines. The United States has donated 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine through the COVAX program. They began to be administered last Monday. Vaccination will meet with resistance from Haitians who do not trust it and who still prefer to be treated with natural products.

Haiti has defeated AIDS

View of the entrance to the GHEISKO.

The Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi Syndrome and Opportunistic Infections (GHEISKO) was created when AIDS arrived in Haiti.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jean-Michel Leprince

The GHEISKO Center (Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi Syndrome and Opportunistic Infections) has been in existence for 40 years. As its name suggests, its foundation corresponds to the arrival of AIDS, which was catastrophic in Haiti.

In this regard, the results are remarkable. Since the peaks of 2013 and 2014, cases have dropped. Patients are strictly maintained on treatment with antivirals.

It was hopeless, but indeed the program was a success, I think it is an amazing model.

A quote from:Marie Marcelle Deschamps

GHEISKO is a non-profit NGO created by Haitians for Haitians that manages foreign aid in a transparent way. A model, says Dr. Deschamps, applicable and replicable across the country and which could be emulated for reforestation or education.

Despite the myths that circulate, Haiti is capable of success.

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