HIV/AIDS Honduras Project Jan/Feb 1993
This project originated from a trip I made to visit my sister, a doctor working with Liverpool based charity Jospice International, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Central America, during February 1992. I intended to produce stock photography images illustrating general health care activities she was involved with, such as child inoculation programmes, midwifery and health clinics. A couple of days before my departure a woman and her child arrived at the clinic saying that her husband had just died from an AIDS related illness and the local undertaker was demanding extra money to bury him, money she did not have and could we help her. She said that such was the stigma of AIDS that undertakers were reluctant to bury people who had died from the disease and would only consider burials by paying a premium.
I made further inquiries with local health workers who predicted that Honduras and in particular San Pedro Sula was in the early stages of a potentially devastating AIDS epidemic. It was at this point I decided to return the following year to document what I found.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. If untreated, the person’s immune system will eventually be completely destroyed. AIDS refers to a set of symptoms and illnesses that occur at the very final stage of HIV infection.
In 1992, 2019 people had been diagnosed with AIDS in Honduras, with numbers predicting to double each year, 41% of those were from San Pedro Sula. Clearly an epidemic was unfolding and gaining strength. The Ministry of Health in Honduras estimated the number of people infected by the HIV virus was between 50-100,000, all of whom would develop AIDS within 5-10 years. The ratio of men to women infected in 1992 was 2:1.
The resulting photographs from this project have been widely used to illustrate published articles on HIV/AIDS in Honduras. A complete exhibition of this work was purchased by the United Nation Population Fund in 1994 and exhibited at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. A wide selection of these photographs were used in the 1994 C4 documentary ‘the Bar Girl, the Catholic, the Pimp and the Priest ‘, which documented the ‘debt’ system that enslaves girls into prostitution. In 2007 these photographs were used exclusively by amfAR, The American Foundation for Aids Research, in New York, to help fund and promote their work. The resulting DVD presentation was narrated by the late Elizabeth Taylor and Edward Kennedy.
This project is divided into three sections:
The first section are portraits of the AIDS patients at the San José Hospice, the second records the sex workers at the Hotel Fanny and the third section documents the final days, death and funeral of José Martínez.
The tragic reality of being infected with the HIV virus in 1993 meant that when I returned to visit the hospice a year later in January 1994 every single patient at the hospice I had photographed and befriended had died.