The Caribbean 25/04/11

Staff of two Dominican hospitals are cautioned for sending home a patient discovered to be HIV positive, whilst in Puerto Rico, Easter festivities are reinterpreted in the name of political protest.

The Dominican Ministry of Health has had to issue a warning this week to two hospitals for refusing to treat an HIV positive patient.

The written caution was sent to members of staff at the Luis Eduardo Aybar and Padre Billini hospitals on Wednesday 20 April.

The incident involved 31 year-old Joaquín Figueroa, who presented with acute kidney failure. Whilst preparing him for dialysis, hospital staff realised that Figueroa was HIV positive, whereupon they sent the patient home.

The Ministry of Health has responded by cautioning the professionals involved, and demanding greater vigilance to ensure that in future, rules are followed and greater respect is shown to patients.

In other news, the country has been buzzing with preparations for Holy Week. Thursday 21 April saw the official implementation of the ‘Destino Santo’ programme, aimed at ensuring public safety during the celebrations.

The programme is comprised of over 22 organizations and 35,000 people including doctors, police, soldiers, paramedics, and rescue specialists.

General Juan Manuel Méndez, director of the emergency services, has published recommendations and guidelines also intended for the many Dominicans that are travelling during the holiday

Despite the comprehensive measures in place, the Centre for Emergency Operations (Centro de operaciones de emergencia – COE) announced on Saturday 23 April that 12 people had died and 360 had been injured during the ‘Semana Santa’ period.

Nine of the deaths were caused by traffic accidents, whilst two were the result of alcohol. The remaining victim had drowned. Similarly, the majority of injuries were sustained through traffic accidents, followed by alcohol.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, various human rights groups took advantage of the seasonal celebrations to stage an unusual and dramatic protest outside the Capitol.

The protesters, who members of groups including Amnesty International, the Committee Against Homophobia and Discrimination (Comité contra la Homofobia y el Discrimen) and Nueva Escuela, gathered to decry the perceived dominance of religion in government.

A press release from one of the groups involved, the Movement of Puerto Rican Women (Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto Rico – MAMPR) described the island’s government as a ‘de facto theocracy’, a sentiment echoed by the slogans used during Thursday 21 April’s protest.

The climax of the event came when protesters enacted a version of the crucifixion in a dramatic denouncement of the treatment of the human rights of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and trangender community in Puerto Rico

During the spectacle, a woman carrying a cross was followed by 15 others who represented the 15 women killed in the first few months of this year. Other protesters, embodying the legislative and executive branches, the judiciary and religious fundamentalism respectively pursued and threatened the women.

This creative reinterpretation of the Stations of the Cross was followed by the reading of a collective declaration which called on Christian values such as ‘Love thy neighbour’ to be applied to women and people of all sexual orientations as vulnerable members of society.