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The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-Year Journey into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti
into my office in order to see him. Obtaining even routine laboratory tests was next to impossible without a clinic card. Margaret had begun a study using interferon as therapy for patients with AIDS and was giving it to Régis, but again, without a clinic card, it was impossible to monitor the effects.
To make matters worse, he was not rehired for his teaching job. He claimed that his employers did not know he had AIDS but did not rehire him because he had missed too much time being ill. He took a one-room apartment with a friend and shared the rent. He hoped to live off his savings until he got better or we cured him.
Régis told me he thought his mental powers were deteriorating—that he could not remember or concentrate as well. This frightened him greatly. When I tested him with serial calculations, remembering large numbers forward—and backward, and with proverb interpretation, I could detect no deficiency. Although still meticulously neat, he no longer came to the office in a suit coat but rather in a plain white shirt, open at the neck, with no tie.
At the time we were fortunate to have on staff a compassionate and dedicated social worker named Alina, who always welcomed a new challenge. One day while Régis was sitting in the waiting area, I called her into my office. I asked her if she would be willing to take on what might be a most difficult case. I outlined Régis’s illness, his personality, his current difficulties with the INS, and the social problems his illness was causing him. I told her I was beginning to believe there were no solutions to his problems but that he was one of the most extraordinary people I had ever met. At first she was reticent. I knew she had recently been hurt by letting herself get emotionally involved with patients and their frequently insolvable problems. She told me as much and said she would think about it and let me know by the following day. I didn’t push. Perhaps she was having a bad day. Before I had finished with Régis on that visit though, she knocked on my door and told me she would accept my offer and try to help.
When I introduced Régis to Alina, his charm and smile returned