St Joseph's Hospice in Honduras

Honduras is one of the poorest countries of the Americas and the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS in all of Central America. An estimated 63,000 adults and children are living with HIV in Honduras, 70 per cent of them young people.

honduras child

AIDS has become the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age in Honduras. Poverty, lack of education and unequal power relations between men and women are all factors that make women susceptible to HIV infection. In a country where many people are afraid to disclose their HIV status or to get tested, community members initially rejected the idea of a hospice when it opened in 1991 due to the stigma and fear associated with people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Now that more people are dying, they realise this service is needed," says Catherine O'Leary, an English nurse employed by St Joseph's Hospice who administrates the facility. In her 17 years at the hospice, Ms.O'Leary has seen countless young people lose their lives to AIDS. A wooden cross in the chapel bears the names of all those who died there. But the youth of today are also the greatest hope for turning the tide of the epidemic.

 honduras mother and baby

"You have to reach out to young people," stresses Ms. O'Leary. "The problem is not going away - it's actually getting worse - and change needs to happen with those entering their reproductive years."

Pictured:honduras resident Wendy Aracely Hernández, who has AIDS, looks at the candles on her birthday cake in San Jose hospice in San Pedro Sula November 29, 2007.

Wendy was infected with HIV when she was raped four years ago in her home town of Santa Barbara. She also has a three year old son who is HIV positive.