Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 1st 2014 Contents Christmas
*Thursday 4th December : 7.30pm
Friday 5th December : 7.30 pm
Saturday 6th December : 7.30 pm
Sunday 7th December : 5.00 pm
$250 (reserved) : $200 (unreserved)
Artistic & Musical Director
*Special early bird discount of 10% on Thursday tickets until 30 November
Tickets available at Queen's Hall box o ce Mon. to Sat. 10am --- 6pm from
Monday 24 Nov, from all members of the choir, or call 790 1751
Latecomers will be admitted at a suitable break in the programme
Monday, December 1, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Christmas glitter sparkled on her bare
feet as the affectionate little girl in corn-
row plaits sat on the verandah floor,
observing the greenery placed there. Wear-
ing a pink and white dress, she was helping
an older smiling lady decorate their home
with Christmas branches, cloth poinsettias
and shiny red balls.
Three boys also hung out in the verandah,
watching, helping and generally just being
kids last Wednesday, on a very hot, humid
day in Tunapuna. The older lady, who
watched over the children as she put up the
decorations, is one of many "mummies"
and "aunties" who are always on hand to
look after the needs of the home and the
The children are members of a close-knit
family of 24 youngsters and 22 staff in a
unique orphanage in the East. It s unique
because, unlike many other orphanages,
most of these children have grown up
together since they were babies: it s the only
home they ve ever known. They have healthy
attitudes, lots of company, and round-the-
clock caregivers (three per shift). There is
just one baby in the home, a relatively recent
arrival who is one year old; the other children
range in age from six to 17. Thirteen of them
are teenagers. Those of school age all leave
the home daily to attend regular school (pri-
mary or secondary); the older ones travel
independently via public transit.
The children also all share a particular
condition: they are all HIV positive.
From fatal to chronic
There was a time, back in the 1980s and
early 90s, when being HIV positive meant
you would soon die of Aids (Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndrome). When the
St Vincent de Paul Society first started the
Cyril Ross SVP Nursery in 1994, it was
essentially a hospice: sick babies, abandoned
by parents, were brought there to die in a
caring place. Almost every week or two, a
child would die.
Now, however, since the advent in 1995
of the anti-retroviral drug called the protease
inhibitor, and then, a year later, the multi-
drug cocktails called HAART---for highly
active anti-retroviral therapy---the landscape
has radically shifted.
There is still no cure or effective HIV
vaccine. But anti-retroviral drugs can sup-
press the virus for decades, meaning patients
are significantly more likely to die of other
ailments, such as heart disease or cancer
(like many of the rest of us) rather than
Aids. Many such people will essentially die
of old age---once they manage their disease
with medication and healthy lifestyles.
At the Cyril Ross home, apart from their
HIV status, the children seem quite healthy:
they receive daily doses of antibiotics and
anti-retrovirals (paid for by the State), said
caregivers. It s part of the children s hectic,
normal daily routine: up at 6.30 am, they
change, have breakfast, take their morning
medication, head off to school, then later
head back home, do their homework, play
or relax a bit, have dinner, take their evening
medication, and finally it s off to bed to rest
up for another busy day.
"For as long as our children continue to
manage their medications properly, they
are protected from full-blown Aids," said
Claudia St Bernard, a woman with a mane
of silver dreadlocks who has managed the
home since May 2013. "We have past res-
idents who are now living on their own, who have
married and have had their own babies, and the
babies are HIV negative," said St Bernard.
New care needs
This good news, however, has brought new respon-
sibilities and big challenges to the St Vincent de Paul
Society. From running an infants hospice, they now
have to considerably scale up their services to cater
for the emerging needs of the youth. These teenage
survivors of a global pandemic must now prepare
for fuller lives. At 18, they must all leave the home.
This means that getting a good education and
independent jobs are crucial. The Society provides
some transitional help by way of a house for young
adults, where they can learn to live independently.
But many there have faced new difficulties due to
low educational achievements which makes it hard
to get jobs, said Stephen Belgrave, the St Vincent de
Paul coordinator for institutions.
(UWI staff may help in this regard; some staff are
exploring the idea of doing academic evaluations and
identifying each child s specific learning needs at the
home, so that UWI students may then possibly be
assigned to students according to their needs. This
kind of mentoring may help the children achieve
better results while still at the home. Another possible
area of assistance may be in staff training. But it is
all still at the discussion stage.)
Caregivers seek better future for Cyril Ross children
Hugs, treats and good eats for Christmas
On Christmas Day this year the Fire Services
Association is stepping up, providing breakfast, lunch and
dinner too, and sharing activities with the kids.
A Christmas wish list for the Cyril Ross home from
Stephen Belgrave and Claudia St Bernard suggested:
1. Better educational planning and help for teens, to
help them get better jobs as adults.
2. A bus for the home, to take children on field trips.
3. A sponsor for a social worker for the home. The
social worker would monitor children's psychological and
social needs, help to assess them, and help devise
effective individual development plans.
4. Regular fruit donations. The vitamins and
antioxidants in fruit help them avoid infections.
5. Donations of money (costs of haircuts, school shoes,
book bags, uniforms and all the other needs of 24 children
add up, said Stephen Belgrave. There are also costs of
electricity and other utilities. Though the State provides a
quarterly subvention, it's not enough to cover salaries for
everyone, he said; so the St Vincent de Paul Society must
raise funds for that.)
6. Donations of time. Volunteers are very welcome, said
St Bernard. She asks volunteers to please come in first to
identify how best their skills might help.
7. General gifts are a welcome gesture, but it's much
better to call first and ask what is needed. Don't just send
boxes of toys or old clothes. The toys might not be of
interest to the kids; the clothes might not fit!
What is HIV/Aids? AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome) is a disease caused by a virus called HIV
(Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The illness alters the
immune system, making people much more vulnerable to
infections and diseases.
How do you get Aids? HIV is transmitted by three
main routes: 1) Sexual contact 2) Exposure to infected
body fluids or tissues 3) A mother can give it to her baby
during pregnancy, delivery, or when the baby drinks her
breast milk. You cannot get HIV from faeces, nasal
secretions, saliva (unless blood is exchanged, eg through
bleeding gums), sputum, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit
unless these are contaminated with blood. And you
cannot get Aids or HIV from a hug, or from a casual
touch. Do all people with HIV get Aids? No. Being
diagnosed with HIV does NOT mean a person will also be
diagnosed with Aids.
To reach The Society of St Vincent de Paul call 623-
4926/625-3562 or write to PO Box 1105, 20 Duncan
On the history of Aids in the US:
On HIV treatments: http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-
On Aids in the Caribbean:
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