"Dessine-moi un mouton" is a charity that came about during the AIDS years. What was its original purpose?
The idea, 26 years ago, was to take care of the whole family in which HIV had an impact: children and their parents, who have to deal with this life-changing news. One of the charity's key roles is teaching how to cope with uncertainty. The patients take on a great responsibility: they need real and immediate follow-ups. Given the complexity of the disease, our charity quickly springs into action, with psychologists, educators, nurses. In 1996, the advent of tritherapies revolutionaized the lives of patients, significantly extending their life expectancy. We have created a teenagers / young adults program to accompany them throughout their lives; there is also a prenatal center, for pregnant women carrying the virus, who can now have a fully healthy baby thanks to the newest treatments. Despite medical advances, society's view on HIV is still very discriminatory... despite the fact that there are 6000-7000 new infections each year in France.
Then the association opened to other pathologies...
Since 2010, we have also welcomed patients with other chronic diseases of infectious or genetic origin. Chronic diseases are the curse of the century: 15 million suffer in France from it. We take care of patients that the hospital cannot take care of permanently – patients in very precarious situations. We mostly see mothers, young people, and single parent families. We have developed a support model to better live with the disease: in addition to our place of reception, we also offer therapeutic stays. Today, there are about 15 people working in the association, which has a somewhat atypical status because it crosses several areas: social causes, health/medical, youth, parents... we do not like to fit within one box!
What is the typical week like at your reception center in the 20th arrondissement?
It's an open office where people can come without appointment. Women and young people are often sent to us by hospitals that we have a strong relationship with: sometimes, for a first meeting, our practitioners also travel there. The idea is to make these patients feel good. We have a multidisciplinary team of nurses, educators and psychologists. Each person is free to meet with them according to their needs. There is no typical path; it's a la carte. We also organize discussion groups, therapeutic workshops, tutoring... and sometimes, we are faced with emergencies. People in great risk have no place to sleep, so we make phone calls to find accommodations. The queue of people in need is always full: sometimes, we cannot put in the front of the line a young woman who has a baby in her arms and who is ill. We regularly accommodate around 200 people a year. The prenatal unit requires the most work to stabilize situations. We have suicide attempts too... despite the glamorous name of the association, we have constant serious things to deal with.