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AIDS epidemic is decimating Warao people

The indicators of the Orinoco Delta surpass the world average. Doctors believe these indigenous people are facing a much more aggressive strain that threatens the survival of an entire population. The authorities, meanwhile, have kept silence about this case. Here is the first installment of this investigative report.

28/11/2015 11:42:06

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Delta Amacuro. - The day Monsignor Felipe González asked the inhabitants of San Francisco de Guayo - an indigenous village located in the Orinoco Delta, at the northeastern corner of Venezuela - to describe what people felt before they died, they all began to name: "diaraya" (fever), "sojo" (diarrhea), "botukataya" (weight loss), "botobotoya" (weakness), "ataearakateobo" (dizziness). None of them mentioned the disease that encompasses all these symptoms. "Gentlemen, you are dying of AIDS", the priest said. In San Francisco de Guayo, as in other nearby communities, many people of the Warao ethnic group do not call HIV-AIDS by name but by the symptoms they experience.

Luis José Rodríguez, a doctor in the area, has had to give similar explanations to those of the priest. Warao natives only notice the sudden presence of the disease when the body begins to decompose. Rodriguez, 26, is doing his rural work practices in Guayo. He accommodates his glasses and continues in front of the computer, reviewing the list of cases of HIV patients, he is very aware of the episode because he recently gave the news to a patient from Jeukubaca, another community of the Antonio Díaz municipality in Delta Amacuro. "She received the news as if it was nothing", he recalls. "I asked her: 'Do you know what HIV-AIDS is?'. And she said: "No, I don't know". Reviewing this patient's history, they found that her former husband had died of HIV.