Valcuse’s Story

Here is Valcuse’s Story

Valcuse’s mother died from AIDS complications in May 1997. She does not know her father. Before her mother died, her mother gave Valcuse to one of her mother’s female cousin as a restavek. Valcuse did well for a few years after the death of her mother. Unfortunately, in 2002 her health began to fail. Her progressive cough got worse; she suffered from frequent stomach cramps and had many sores and a rash all over her body. She was near death when her guardian brought her to GCH. She was admitted, stayed at the hospital for eight months for TB treatment (she extended her hospital stay because her guardian never returned for her). Because of obvious symptoms of HIV infection, she was tested and found to be HIV-positive. Since her guardian did not return for her, the GCH HIV counselors (Chantale and Julie) went on a search to locate her. The GCH counselors were able to track down Valcuse’s guardian and discussed Valcuse’s HIV status and special needs.

With great persuasion, Valcuse’s guardian decided to take her in, but she feared that Valcuse may pass the disease to her two children. Valcuse’s life was no different than that of other child domestics in Haiti. Upon returning to the house as a restavek, she resumed her domestic duties (e.g., cleaning the house, fetching water, going to the market, etc.). It did not matter if Valcuse were sick; she still had to work as a restavek. The frequent beatings made things worse. When Valcuse’s health started to fail again, her guardian made arrangements to send her back to Bainet, her mother’s hometown. Sending Valcuse to the countryside would be detrimental since being in Port-au-Prince gave her access to ARV treatment and medical care. Valcuse overheard the conversation and ran away to seek refuge at the hospital with HIV counselors, Julie and Chantale. Nurse Julie contacted Maison Arc-en-Ciel (Rainbow House), an orphanage that took in abandoned children, but did not take in HIV-positive ones at the time. Maison Arc-en-Ciel provided Valcuse with temporary shelter, but had to let her go because she had needs that they could not meet.

Valcuse Photo

After Valcuse left Maison Arc-en-Ciel, she had nowhere to go. Nurse Julie and Chantale returned to talk to Valcuse’s guardian to see if she could take her in again. Although, Valcuse was allowed to live with her guardian, this time the abuse worsened forcing her to run away again. She went back to the only place she knew: GCH. Nurse Julie and Chantale took her back to Maison Arc-en-Ciel to see what assistance she could receive. Fortunately, Valcuse was able to receive dry goods: blé2, potato flour, and oil – which she sold in the local market, took the money to purchase cooked food to eat. Valcuse did not go to school. She was able to live like this for a while – sleeping in the courtyard of GCH and eating wherever she could.

When I met Valcuse, she was receiving ARVs from GHESKIO. Since she lived in the courtyard of GCH, Nurse Julie took her to GCH for her medications and care; when Nurse Julie could not take her, she got herself there. I was shocked to hear that Valcuse carried her HIV medications in a black plastic bag everywhere with her. One of the many reasons for writing Valcuse’s story was that I did not want her to die believing we adults were cruel. She was just a child and did not ask to be born in these circumstances. Valcuse told me that when she took her ARV meds they made her nauseous. Would you voluntarily take something that makes you vomit? Though I am not a physician, I knew taking these ARVs inconsistently and not following the instructions would likely increase this child’s chance of developing resistance to the meds which can be life threatening.

I made no promises after talking to Valcuse; I simply gave her $20 Haitian [$2.85 USD] and left. I returned to the United States thinking of this child and hoping that I could make a difference in her life. It took me two months to work up the guts to write a letter to everyone I know requesting money to send to Nurse Julie and Chantale to secure shelter and other basic necessities for this child to live. During that time period I was in contact with both Chantale and Julie; I was informed that there were other children with HIV infection whose parents/guardians had abandoned at the hospital. So, on December 5, 2003, I sent all the money that I received from the fundraising ($500) to Nurse Julie. At the time we had four children: Valcuse (13), Christelle (7), Tatiana (16), and Ernso (12 or 13). The money I sent was not enough to rent a house. Chantale and Julie managed to convince four neighborhood families (w/o disclosing the children’s HIV status) to allow the children to live with them to be paid [$15/day = $2 USD]. The children lived with those families until March 2004 when we were able to rent a modest home. It was then that a model of care was put to work. The CHOAIDS model of care is consistent of HIV-positive women delivering direct one-on-one care to the children. Our goal is to minimize HIV stigma and create an environment in which the children are free to be themselves.

Valcuse was not able to move into the new home, because her guardian came to the hospital to harass the nurse and social worker to get Valcuse back so that she could make money with her. In early 2004, there was money in Haiti for the care of orphans and other vulnerable children, but only parents/guardians/family members caring for those children were eligible for these funds. Valcuse’s guardian used her to obtain money and other support; unfortunately, it was not long after the abuse and mistreatment started again. Valcuse was out on the streets again. She came back to live in the courtyard of the hospital. We could not take her in again, since we did not have legal custody.

Valcuse 2007
During a trip to Haiti in 2007, I learned that Valcuse had died sometime in May 2007. During a conversation with Mrs. Arnoux, GCH head of nursing and administrator, I learned the details of her death which are not different from her history of abuse. She was hospitalized at GCH twice before her death. During the last time she was hospitalized she became blind and deaf. Dr. Jeaunot, the doctor who took care of her at GCH told me that Valcuse asked her why all these things were happening to her. It is sad to report that three days after her guardian came to pick her up to take her to Bainet, she died.

At Caring for Haitian Orphans with AIDS, Inc, we believe that life is precious. This organization exists because we do not want another child to leave this earth knowing that all adults are heartless beings. There are many children like Valcuse in Haiti and many other places in the world; we have to do what we can to help these HIV-positive children live decent lives, by meeting their basic human needs (shelter, education, food, safe drinking water and sanitary living conditions). In the end, all of us (whether HIV-positive or not) matter to God.

Here is Valcuse’s Story​

Valcuse faced a challenging life, losing her mother to AIDS in 1997 and being placed in a restavek situation by her mother’s cousin. After health issues, she was brought to GCH for TB treatment and later tested positive for HIV. Despite attempts to reunite her with her guardian, abuse persisted, leading Valcuse to run away multiple times.

Struggling to find stability, Valcuse lived in the GCH courtyard, relying on the kindness of Nurse Julie and Chantale. She managed to sustain herself by selling goods in the market but couldn’t attend school. Valcuse’s story highlights the hardships faced by HIV-positive children in Haiti.

Upon discovering Valcuse’s situation, efforts were made to secure funds for her and other children. However, challenges persisted, and she faced continued abuse. Tragically, Valcuse passed away in May 2007, experiencing blindness and deafness before her death.

Caring for Haitian Orphans with AIDS, Inc emphasizes the importance of supporting HIV-positive children’s basic needs to provide them with a chance at a better life. Valcuse’s story serves as a poignant reminder of the organization’s mission to prevent other children from suffering a similar fate.

Valcuse Photo