Association of Haitian Physicians abroad & other Haitian-American leaders

Photos by Rachel Moscoso Denis
@ News conference in Little Haiti, Miami FL; Covered by Pikliz, WNBC, Miami Herald, WCBS, FOX TV, WABC, CNN, Sun Sentinel, Washington Post, Radio Mega, Radio Planete La.

October 31, 2007

Issue: Article about the spread of HIV/AIDS in America

Dear Concerned Citizens,

The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad is very alarmed by the recent publication in the media of the results of a study conducted by Dr Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Arizona, and co-authored by Dr Arthur Pitchenik from the University of Miami.

The study entitled “The Emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas
And Beyond” raises the suggestion that the origin of the HIV epidemic in the US is from a single Haitian immigrant who came to the US in 1969, and that HIV was brought to Haiti by an infected person from Central Africa in about 1966.

The Haitian people had been wrongly stigmatized in the past by scientific publications that identified Haitians as a risk factor for HIV, and it took years of protest to debunk these claims.

We have requested a copy of the article, which we will submit to our own experts for scientific review.

We are very much aware of the emotional and socio-cultural impact this issue has created in our community. The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad is taking the leading role in addressing the issue in an astute manner, and is asking all concerned Community Based Organizations in the Haitian community to join us in order to develop a common strategy to confront this issue.

A press conference will be held on Thursday November 1st, 2007 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 PM at:

Jean Jacques Dessalines Community Center
8325 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL

Smith Joseph, DO, Pharm.D.
Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine
Haitians critical of HIV report

By ERIKA BERAS, Miami Herald

Alarmed by a recent study that suggests the origin of HIV in the United States was a single Haitian immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1969, The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad and other Haitian-American leaders called a news conference Thursday in Little Haiti to tell the community not to become alarmed.

''We know you are filled with grief and frustration,'' said Dr. Smith Joseph, president of the Florida chapter of the association, referring to the endless streams of calls and chatter that have filled Haitian radio airwaves since the study was released. ``We are going to consult with various experts to examine the validity of the study.''

''A couple of decades ago, we had to debunk these myths,'' he said. ``It's as if we have stepped back in time.''

The highly publicized study, released this week in the respected medical journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests HIV went directly from Africa to Haiti, then spread to the United States and the rest of the world starting around 1969.

The findings were based, in part, on blood samples taken from about 20 Haitian patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital from as far back as 1979.

The frozen samples were stored at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and reanalyzed by the study's authors, including a researcher at the University of Miami.

''The Haitian community is outraged and they have every right to be,'' said Yolly Roberson, a former nurse who represents District 104 in Florida's House of Representatives. ``I'm raising my daughter and I want her to be proud to be Haitian. This is not the legacy I want to see perpetuated.''

Thursday's news conference was held at Little Haiti's Jean Jacques Dessalines Community Center. About 30 people were present, including members of the Haitian Lawyers Association and The Haitian Nurses Association.