Top model and actress Molly Sims launched a new youth center for street children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. PSI (Population Services International) built the center with money donated from H&M’s 2008 Fashion against AIDS campaign. Sims is an Ambassador for PSI’s child survival program Five & Alive.
H&M has long been committed to raising awareness about HIV prevention and treatment. It has twice partnered with Designers against AIDS on the Fashion against AIDS campaign, which brings together well-known designers, musicians, and artists to create fashion collections with 25% of the sales price going to the cause.
More than 1,500 young children will benefit from the services provided at the center in its first year alone, with thousands more expected to benefit in the future. While the large majority of these children are those currently living on the street, many are children locally known as “restaveks”-young boys and girls sold into a type of domestic slavery by desperately poor families in need of cash.
Through its strong partnership with community based organizations and local NGOs, PSI/Haiti will provide clinical health services and education at the center, including reproductive health services and HIV testing and follow-up support. Haiti’s HIV prevalence rate is at epidemic proportions, with more than 200,000 people suffering from the disease – it is the highest HIV rate in the entire Caribbean region. Street children and “restaveks” are among those most at risk for the disease as both groups are often regularly mistreated, abused, and exposed to violent and life-threatening situations like sexual abuse.
Of her work in Haiti, Sims says, “It is heartbreaking to see so many young girls and boys suffering in a country just a few hours away from my own. I realize how incredibly fortunate I have been in my own life and I feel humbled to be able to work to share that good fortune with others.”
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