Real lives

Real Lives


A Leader Speaks

© UNICEF RD/P.García/ 2010

 “We do this for love, because we are positive and want to help”. Sandra de la Rosa

Santo Domingo.-  At a recent workshop on “Communications for Development for the Reduction/Elimination of Vertical HIV Transmission in the Dominican Republic” I couldn’t fail to notice this middle aged lady, who was the first to arrive and spent the whole time taking notes, closely following the explanations and taking part enthusiastically in the exercises.

The following day, I decided to find out more about her. I arrived early and there she was in the hall, together with Ana Joaquina, her friend from Montecristi. We got talking about her interest in taking part in this workshop and I really think that getting to know Sandra de la Rosa shows that life is full of doers and multiple opportunities.

Sandra is an educator for Grupo Clara and she tells us that she works with people who live with HIV. “We get them together every month, in several groups of 13 to 20 people each, and we speak to them about how they can protect themselves, about nutrition, we explain the use of medications and anti-retrovirals.
We coordinate more than 500 people, men, young people, women of all ages and we organise workshops for family members, so that they can support their relatives”, she tells us.She makes it clear that children are not allowed at their meetings, even if they’re related to the grop members: “We pass them on to CEPROSH, seeing as we discuss issues that are not appropriate for them”. The Human Solidarity and Promotion Centre, Inc. – CEPROSH – (available only in Spanish) works with HIV and AIDS prevention with youth groups in Puerto Plata and other communities in the northern region.

Sandra, a widow who is HIV positive, proudly tells us that she has a daughter who was born without the virus. She speaks about her condition with confidence and without fear. “At first I didn’t show my face due to the discrimination in society, but I received education from some Spanish people who had a relative called Clara and they started working in Puerto Plata. That was in 1989 when we didn’t know that much about HIV and AIDS here”.

She tells us that at the time there were no medicines, but they started working, and then they got organised as Covicosida and later set up CEPROSH, which has continued as part of Grupo Clara.

Due to her condition, Sandra believes that she has special qualifications for supporting people who live with HIV. “You can speak about your own experiences, you know what these people are feeling”, she says emphatically.

The conversation continues and we ask more about Grupo Clara. “At the moment, the members of Grupo Clara are working on a voluntary basis. All the members of the board are people who are HIV positive and until November we received funds from several international organisations. Right now, about ten of us are covering the costs. We’re in the process of seeking new donors and we’re making project applications”.

Keeping the work going for so many years as we’ve been doing, face to face, in neighbourhood associations, in the schools, in public and private health centres has a cost, and we have teams in the hospitals giving advice, and this is something we do for love, because we are positive and want to help”, Sandra tells us.

When Sandra, who has spent so many years supporting HIV prevention and people living with the virus in the community of Puerto Plate, is asked how she sees herself within the whole movement of organisations involved in this sector, she tells us with a certain wistful air, but with enthusiasm: “I realise how at first there was little in the way of help, little knowledge. We’ve been progressing, with limitations and with hope, which has been fading little by little, but I will continue helping and will continue to do something. I can’t help much, but we are leaders and we want to continue helping”.

The conversation has to come to an end, as we have to start the day’s programme at this workshop sponsored by Unicef, although I can see that Sandra was left with a desire to go on telling us about her experience, and that she feels proud of what she does and her words show all the enthusiasm she radiates in her everyday routine as a counsellor.

May 2010



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