Human rights advocates in Honduras are celebrating the release of the country’s leading AIDS activist following a 12-hour long kidnapping on Tuesday.
Three unidentified men grabbed Keren Dunaway, 18, and her mother, Rosa González, early Tuesday morning outside the San Pedro Sula offices of Fundación Llaves, a Honduran non-governmental organization that works on issues related to HIV/AIDS, gender equality and sexual diversity. González, the head of Fundación Llaves, was released moments later, but her daughter was whisked off by the captors.
González, a widow, delivered a public message to the kidnappers, pleading for her daughter’s safe return and insisting that her family had no money to pay ransom.
“She is my only daughter, the apple of my eye; I beg whoever took her to not harm her. Return her to me, please,” González said in a statement to the Honduran press yesterday afternoon.
González explained that her daughter needs to take life-saving anti-retroviral medication every day, and her life would be put in danger if she was denied treatment.
Hours after making her public plea, González said she received a phone call demanding $24,000 for her daughter’s release— an amount she said she was unable to pay.
Police deployed special tactical units to search the city for the missing woman. With the manhunt underway, Dunaway’s captors apparently panicked and let the activist go Tuesday night; she was found minutes later by a police patrol, which brought her home (after posing for a picture).
Dunaway is now being treated in a private hospital in San Pedro Sula. Police say they have identified the kidnappers, but no arrests have been made.
Dunaway, who was only 5 years old when her parents used stick-figure drawings to explain to her that all three of them were infected with the HIV virus, went on to become one of the hemisphere’s most prominent youth AIDS activists. As a UN ambassador for HIV/AIDS, Dunaway has shared the stage with world leaders such as former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Despite Honduras' falling homicide rate, San Pedro Sula remains one of the most violent cities in the world. It has one of the highest HIV prevalences in Latin America.