Pierrette J. Cazeau knows first hand what it feels like to be singled out. In 1990 she marched on the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from Haitians.
According to media reportsduring those days, the FDA’s discriminatory ban singled out Haitians in the U.S. because “scientists said then they had found high numbers of AIDS cases transmitted by heterosexual contact among Haitians.”
Today Cazeau is the president and founder of Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated “to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs [and] to respond rapidly to emergency situations with…diseases such as Cholera, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB.”
On Dec. 1 HCRFF will host Walk Palm Beach, a 3-mile walk in Riviera Beach. Its goal is to raise “$20,000 to assist individuals living with HIV throughout Palm Beach County that lack access to transportation for their medical appointments.”
Cazeau said because of what happened in the 1980s Haitians in the U.S. have been stigmatized for decades as having HIV.
“Haitians that are HIV positive are ashamed to tell their families that they are HIV positive,” Cazeau said.
The first Haitian blood ban was limited to those Haitians that came to the U.S. after 1977. It went into effect in the mid-80s but in the beginning of 1990 the 1977 time limit was eliminated.
That change was what prompted the Brooklyn Bridge march that Cazeau took part in. The ban was finally lifted at the end of 1990.
Even today that stigma can still be felt. Earlier this year Politico Magazine theorized that President Trump’s comments calling Haiti and other nations “shithole countries” while also saying all Haitians “have AIDS,” dates back to those early days of the widespread panic surrounding AIDS.
In 1983 the Centers for Disease Control identified four risk groups, which become known as the Four-H Club and included homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians.
According to the above mentioned Politico article “doctors were seeing cases in other nationalities at the time, but reported only on the Haitians because they did not see them as having the same privacy rights—because they were poor, black refugees.”
While Haiti is a “main focus” of HCRFF, Cazeau also said it’s a foundation to not “only serve Haiti, not only serve Haitians, but all [who live with HIV].”
The deadline to register for the event is Nov. 30 – fees vary based on age groups.
There will food trucks as well as face painting for any kids attending. There will also be free health screenings.
Sponsors for the event include AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Palm Beach Food Bank, Florida Health, Ian the Barber and the cities of Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach.
Visit WalkPalmBeach.orgfor more info.