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Richard Selzer’s A Mask on the Face of Death

Richard Selzer is a famous doctor, who wrote a lot of interesting works, including essays, on medicine. One of these essays is called A Mask on the Face of Death and covers the issue of AIDS. It was composed in 1988 and had a very specific geographical reference, because it described how men acquired AIDS and how they were being treated for it in Haiti. The essay demonstrates very clearly that AIDS has no economic, racial or ethnic prejudice and can be acquired by any person. In his essay, Richards Selzer also shows that men in Haiti don’t think about having any security measures against AIDS even though they often have sexual intercourses with women as well as homosexual relationships. Selzer also interviews Haitian prostitutes to find out that they don’t take any precautions against the deadly virus either. Moreover, prostitutes laughed at Richard and told him that there is no such thing as AIDS and it was totally made up by the American government to manipulate developing countries. It should be admitted though, that it remains a topic for debates, whether this disease really exists or not. Nevertheless, the research and findings of Richard Selzer make it evident that AIDS does exist and has gained full power throughout different parts of the world, including Haiti.   

If we speak about the treatment for AIDS in Haiti, it should be mentioned that according to Selzer, people don’t have proper healing measures and medicaments in Haitian hospitals. After interviewing prostitutes, Selzer goes to the hospitals of Haiti to talk to the doctors. There, he makes an attempt to understand whether the measures taken at the hospitals can help people with AIDS. From conversations with doctors, it becomes evident that the measures taken in Haitian hospitals to help people, who suffer from AIDS, can’t be even called a treatment. 

Some patients have diarrhea and are wobbly, others have tumors on their eyes. There are also people whose skin is covered with an itchy rash and who have thin hair. Local doctors, who recognize these symptoms, let patients leave without giving them any medication, understanding that there’s nothing they can’t do about it.

Doctor Selzer writes about a woman who had a tumor in the eye, but local doctors refused to help her, saying that they can’t do anything about it, because it is not possible to remove the tumor surgically and chemotherapy won’t help. The next day, this woman went to the mountains to seek help from the local voodoo priest. It demonstrates that people in Haiti have no hope to be cured physically, that is why in such situations they seek for the spiritual relief.

Another unfortunate thing about hospitals in Haiti is that there is no water and hordes of mosquitoes, which terrify already deadly sick patients.

All of this shows that there’s no real way that patients with AIDS can get treatment in Haiti. For this reason, they are left with no other option, but to ask voodoo priests for spiritual healing.

 

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