AIDS in Belize

Love FM:


September 09, 2006

Saturday will be celebrated as World First Aid day. Love news spoke with the Belize Red Cross First Aid Project Coordinator, Stephanie Young.


“Tomorrow across the world a lot of societies, a lot of Red Cross and Red Crescents societies will be celebrating this World First Aid day just not in Belize and we’re expecting more than 100 will participate this year in the world first aide day and they will organize their events ceremonies and the whole idea of that is to raise public awareness to have communities understanding the positives effect of having first aide in our daily lives. And that’s we encourage people, our Belizean people to learn first aide so that they can respond to any emergencies as they may arise.”

Young said the Belize Red Cross will be involved in a number of activities tomorrow.


“Under the theme Red Cross, Red Crescents First Aide Volunteers Saving Lives Without Discrimination that is the theme for World First Aide Day which is celebrated every second Saturday in September, so its going to be celebrated September 9th, which is tomorrow and this is just an opportunity to highlight way in which first aide can over come, for example national, racial and political divides. And so one of the things that Belize Red Cross has been doing that compliments this work with our volunteers is to take first aide into the communities and into the school. And we’ve had a lot of training in the Orange Walk district and Cayo district where by our volunteers taught community members first Aide skills. In schools we did a lot of education sessions. And so that was one of the ways we were trying to incorporate the whole theme. And having everybody, you know the entire Belizean public learns fist aid. What we will be also doing for tomorrow which marks the day, September 9th, we’re going to be participating in the carnival. Together We Can is also a part of the Red Cross is going to be having a float and we’re going to be a part of that float, we’re going to be distributing a lot of giveaways, things that showcase the work of the Red Cross volunteers. One of the themes we are using is “Don’t be a Bystander, Be Someone, Learn First Aid.” As our t-shirts would say be somebody learn first aide. We have a lot of giveaways we will be giving to the public.”

Stephanie Young Belize Red Cross First Aid Project Coordinator.
Ch 5:

HIV testing: it’s fast, easy ... and vital

AIDS: We've been hearing about the deadly epidemic for years ... but the continued rise in infections indicates that the message still may not be getting through. If Belize and the world are going to reverse that situation then the initial step is to find out who's got the virus ... and that means testing. News Five's Kendra Griffith presents the first of a three part series.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
We see and hear the messages all the time ...

... But are Belizeans getting tested? We took to downtown Belize City to find out.

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever gotten and HIV test?”

Citizen #1
“Yes ma’am.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever taken and HIV test?”

Citizen #2
“No, not yet.”

Kendra Griffith
“Do you know where to go to get tested?”

Citizen #2
“I noh really sure.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever been tested for HIV?”

Citizen #3
“Not as yet.”

Kendra Griffith
“Any reason why?”

Citizen #3
“Cause I’m a healthy strong person.”

Kendra Griffith
“How do you know you are a healthy, strong person?”

Citizen #3
“I do a blood test everything and I always keep myself up together.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you taken an HIV test when you take you blood test or do they test for other things?”

Citizen #3
“I test for food handlers, that’s what I went for a test for. But I never try the test as yet.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever been tested for HIV?”

Citizen #5
“No ma’am.”

Kendra Griffith
“Any particular reason why?”

Citizen #5
“Noh really.”

Kendra Griffith
“How do you protect yourself from HIV?”

Citizen #5
“Using a condom every time I get with a partner.”

Kendra Griffith
“Was it very scary for you when you got tested?”

Citizen #6

Kendra Griffith
“Why did you decide to do it?”

Citizen #6
“Because at the time I mi pregnant and I mi just want to know mi status.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever been tested for HIV?”

Citizen #4

Kendra Griffith
“Do you know where to go though if you want to take a test?”

Citizen #4

Kendra Griffith
“How do you protect yourself from HIV?”

Citizen #4

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever been tested for HIV?”

Citizen #7
“Yes, definitely, I’m not positive. I am negative. Seaweed sure.”

Kendra Griffith
“Belize has come a long way in terms of HIV testing. Instead of having to endure two weeks of anxiety waiting for your results, with the introduction of rapid testing, you can now find out your status in as little as ten minutes.”

Dr. Paul Edwards, Deputy Dir., Health Services
“In September 2003, the ministry took the initiative to start what we call voluntary counselling and testing programmes, specifically related to HIV. It was with the help of a grant from the National Institute of Health in the United States and with a local N.G.O., the Belizean Association for Improved Health Care. Whereby through the grant they were able to provide the funds for rapid test, and the Ministry of Health designed the rest of the programme around that, the pre and post test counselling, the CD4 testing.”

According to Deputy Director of Health Services, Dr. Paul Edwards, before 2003, less than a thousand persons a year were taking an HIV test. Since then, that number has more than quadrupled.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Today we can say as much as twelve to fourteen to sixteen thousand individuals have tested within the last three years. Within in the last three years, so the programme has been effective has been impactful.”

Lorna Perez, Nurse, VCT Clinic
“Most people when they come in to get tested it’s not just because I want to know my status, most of the time it’s because they think they have been at risk or maybe a boyfriend or a girlfriend has come in, they’ve gotten tested.”

There are currently thirteen sites throughout the country where persons can get tested free of charge and one Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre at Cleopatra White Health Clinic in Belize City, but Edwards says the Ministry of Health wants to take their initiative even further.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“What we want to do when we talk about integration is whereby it is clinician or healthcare services initiated, whereby all HIV testing will be promoted. It’s not for you to come in and ask, everybody who accesses and who has been engaged in sexual activity, it is being offered to them, and therefore we hope that through those mechanisms that more people then will be tested and know their HIV status.”

“We also want to have other testing sites available where people can have choices. I don’t want to go to that site because I know the lady who tests and she knows my mother who knows my grandmother, who knows my sister and might tell—even in my mind, so I’m not so comfortable in going there. So the more places we have, the more alternatives, the more choices people have it would promote and not inhibit people from accessing those services.”

In the meantime, HIV organisations around the country are also working on diminishing stigma and discrimination, a well-known deterrent to testing.

Kendra Griffith Reporting for News Five.

Parts two and three of Kendra's report will be presented on Wednesday and Thursday.
I heard on the news the other day, that everybody in the States who take a physical will now get an AIDS test! You agree with that?
Ch 5:

HIV testing process is more than just blood test

On last night's newscast we looked at how changes in technology and available resources have made testing for HIV a fast, safe and necessary process. Tonight News Five's Kendra Griffith gets into the nitty gritty of what happens when you actually go in for that blood test.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
When conducted at a VCT centre or free HIV testing site, the testing process is exactly that ... a process. It consists of three components: pre-counselling, the test, and post counselling ... all of which place a high value on privacy.

Nurse Lorna Perez, Nurse, VCT Clinic
“I want to emphasize that whatever information we share here is confidential. I need to take a name for the reasons of documentation, but once we start doing the test, we will be assigning you a number and therefore all our reports will be based on a number basis. So your name won’t be coming out in any report.”

In pre-counselling patients are asked questions to assess their risk of contracting the virus. And even though the some parts of the inquiry may be highly personal, Nurse Lorna Perez says honesty is the best policy.

Lorna Perez
“Have u ever had any contact with anybody who has been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS?”

“Do you have sex with men, women, with both?”

“Do you use condoms?”

“Have you ever been diagnosed with any sexual transmitted infections?”

“Do you have any tattoos?”

“In your line of work, have you ever been exposed to anybody else’s blood?”

Another section tests the knowledge of the person being tested and clears up any misconceptions about the virus.

Lorna Perez
“Do you know how to prevent contracting the virus?”

“Do you know what HIV stands for?”

“Do you believe that a healthy looking person could be infected with HIV?”

“Do you think a person can get HIV from mosquito bites?”

“How do you think people can protect themselves from contracting the virus when they are having sex?”

After signing a consent form agreeing to the test, it’s time to get down to business. For most people ... no matter how many times you’ve taken an HIV test, some nervousness is always there, especially if you’re afraid of needles, like I am.

After being drawn, the vial of blood is placed in a centrifuge for five to ten minutes, which separates the white blood cells from the red by spinning.

Most people think that an HIV tests looks for the virus in the body ... it doesn’t.

Lorna Perez
“What we are testing for are the antibodies. Once the virus gets into your system, you body is set up in such a way that anything that is not right enters the body it has its defence mechanisms that comes alert and they attack that invading virus. So what your bodies does, it creates what we call antibodies to fight that which is invading your system. So the test itself, what it is checking for is not for the virus, but rather for the antibodies that your body is producing. That is why a test is not effective immediately after you get infected because we would not detect the antibodies, there will not be enough antibodies to be picked up by this type of test.”

Its takes three to six months for the anti-bodies to show up in your body; that timeframe is called the window period.

But back to the test ...

Lorna Perez
“Okay, as you see, it’s separated, so what we use is the serum, which is the white part there. I have to open my package and it looks like this, it is a strip ... all I need is one drop of serum, it goes there.”

About five minutes later the status becomes clear.

Lorna Perez
“Your result is negative because you only have one line. If we had gotten two lines, one at the patient side and one at the control side, then it would be a positive. But because we have only one line at the control side, this means that you have a negative result.”

If the results were positive, a confirmatory test would have then been performed. If both of those come out positive, the nurses can then pass on the results to the tester. But they still send a blood sample to the Central Lab, which performs the more sensitive ELISA test to further confirm that status.

After every test, each patient is given a dated letter proclaiming their status, a card with their personal identification number and the date of their next test ... and of course, some last minute advice.

Lorna Perez
“Once we do two tests, between this one and the next one and the two of them are negative, then you can more or less be assured you are negative. What we want you to do is just look back at those things that you think you’re not be doing right that could expose you to contracting the virus and try and remedy those things so that next time you come you still get a negative result. A lot of people come in getting tested every three months, but the idea is not to get tested every three months, but actually that once you get a negative result, we want you to remain negative.”

And now that you know what it’s all about, it’s your turn to go out and get tested.

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Tomorrow night: A positive result is not a death sentence.
Ch 5:

So you test HIV positive ... what’s next?

O.K., so you've been convinced that knowing your HIV status is a good thing. You took the test. The result is positive. News Five's Kendra Griffith, in the last of a three part report, tells us what happens next.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Deputy Dir., Health Services
“Before, we had always encouraged individuals to go get tested and many times their response was, if I tested positive what would be there for them?”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
With no end in sight to the AIDS pandemic “what is there for me?” is a question that a lot of Belizeans have on their minds. Fortunately, there are programmes in place to help ... beginning immediately after you get your results.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“When the result is positive, one of the first things we would do is to get an appointment with the physician for a complete physical examination to be done--an assessment to determine the staging of that person in relation to the disease.”

Nurse Lorna Perez, Nurse, VCT Clinic
“The other part that we have to look at is the part of the person’s understanding of what the disease means, how to prevent the continuous transmission of this infection, how to relate this information to their partner or partners, how to change whatever lifestyle that is not conducive to good health, if they are drug users, if they are alcoholics, if they are having multiple sex partners, if they having unprotected sex, all these areas we have to deal with.”

Those topics are covered in the post-counselling aspect of testing, something that did not exist when HIV activist Allen Garbutt found out his status almost a decade ago.

Allen Garbutt, AIDS Activist
“First of all, let me say there was no paper, they just say, “Hey you are positive.” And it really shook me up, I tried taking my life. As a matter of fact, if you could look up my files you will find where I do have scars from trying to slit my wrist. I tried drinking poison, I tried everything.”

Lorna Perez
“The fact that they come out positive does not mean that they were ready for the positive result, so the counselling actually is to prepare them for yes, I am at risk and what does it mean for me to be HIV positive and that’s why you try to emphasise from the very beginning that being HIV positive doesn’t mean you have AIDS. You can be positive and not have AIDS, so once they understand that then they know they have come control on how their life will progress from now being positive to the time if they will develop AIDS.”

Kendra Griffith
“Do you know that there is medication available free of charge for people who test positive for HIV?”

“No, I don’t know that. I don’t think so neither. There is? Well then they should put it on the TV and tell the AIDS victim it’s free, no cost right.”

In 2004 then Minister of Health Vildo Marin vowed that government would provide free HIV medication to all Belizeans ... and they have been doing just that. According to Deputy Director of Health Services, Dr. Paul Edwards, there are just under four hundred persons currently on anti-retroviral therapy.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“When that person is found to be HIV positive, they come in every three months to do an assessment, a complete physical examination and also the laboratory aspect of it to monitor where they are at. We talk about normal levels between eight hundred and one thousand two hundred, so when somebody is HIV positive, that CD4 cells would go down progressively over the years as the amount of virus increases within that person’s body. When it reaches three and hundred fifty, that would be the criteria we utilise, along with clinical signs and symptoms of full-blown AIDS as we would call it, and that person then would be eligible for the medications, what we call anti-retroviral, which basically are three medications.”

Those medications, in varying dosages and combinations, should be taken on a permanent basis.

Another government-led project is the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme which has been in existence since 2001. Through this initiative, pregnant mothers are encouraged to get tested and if found to be HIV positive, the women are given the drug Nevirapine before delivery and are provided with artificial milk for nine months. Newborns must also receive the drug after birth. The project has been very successful and the numbers show that since its inception the HIV transmission rate from mother to child has been reduced from approximately fifty percent to eleven point five.

N.G.O.s have also joined government in providing services to HIV positive persons. One such organisation is Hand in Hand Ministries, a faith-based international agency operating in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Hand in Hand opened its offices in Belize in 2002 and has kept a low profile, getting customers by referrals and word of mouth ... but that hasn’t stopped them from having a major impact in the community.

Mark Thessing, Hand in Hand Ministries
“Hand in Hand felt that housing was a serious concern for Belize, especially Belize City. The government of Belize has different initiatives they’ve started, but we felt a serious need for basic homes for people in need and our criteria, Kendra, is basically the family has to own their own land, for one. We try to work with government to provide land if it’s needed. Another criteria is that the family actually has to work and volunteer when the home is actually constructed.”

“Our second biggest initiative is the Hand in Hand Outreach Centre and that’s located on the southside of Belize City and that is a centre for children infected with HIV and their families. It’s a holistic centre in the sense that medication is provided by the Ministry of Health, the opportunistic infections medication is also provided through us. We also have a nutrition programme that we run through the centre as well and we provide counselling services as they are needed.”

Through its Building for Change project, Hand in Hand has constructed fifty-six modest homes across the country, while its Outreach Centre is treating some thirty-five HIV positive children.

Although not exclusively for HIV-related activities, the Cornerstone Foundation based in San Ignacio conducts HIV/AIDS home care training workshops. The course equips persons with the necessary skills and information on how to care for someone with the virus, including bathing, feeding, and protective measures for caregivers.

In the field for almost a decade, the Alliance Against AIDS in Belize City provides counselling for persons infected with HIV and has a support group that meets regularly. AAA also has a hotline where anyone can find information about the virus or for referrals.

While agencies try to meet the demands of people living with the virus, Garbutt says nothing compares to the care and support of family members.

Allen Garbutt
“One of the most common thing that is still lacking in our society is our basic, basic family support. That is still—that is an issue that still needs to be addressed. There’s so many persons out there who are infected and affected by it and the families are just like turning their backs and that is sad.”

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Many people still think about HIV/AIDS as a death sentence. Many people are not aware that there are services available, that there are medications available and that it is a chronic disease whereby the medication will not cure you. But just like diabetes, just like hypertension—there’s not a cure for those diseases, but accessing the services, knowing early, getting the medications, taking the medications as indicated by your doctor, sleeping well, eating well, so that medication works in synergy with that nutrition for maximum benefit.”

Being HIV positive is not a walk in the park ... but for Garbutt, he has no regrets about finding out his status.

Kendra Griffith
“Do you regret knowing?”

Allen Garbutt
“Ah, no definitely not. As a matter of fact I can look at them and I can laugh now because I’m at peace with myself, I’m at peace with myself. I used to hold on to HIV and say, “I di dead, I di dead, but I’ve learnt to let it go.”

Kendra Griffith reporting for News 5.

For more information on Hand in Hand Ministries call them at 227-6273. Alliance Against AIDS's hotline number is 223-6911, while the Cornerstone Foundation can be contacted at 824-2373 or online at
Ch 5:

Peace Corps join AIDS education campaign

The war against AIDS is being fought on many lines by a wide range of organizations. In Belize, the Peace Corps, thanks to a fifteen thousand U.S. dollar grant, is the latest to join the efforts. The Corps coordinated a training of trainers’ workshop on awareness, education, methodology and prevention of HIV/AIDS. News Five's Kendra Griffith has the details.

Austin Arzu, Associate Dir., Peace Corps
“HIV/AIDS has been a scourge in this country and although there are so many organisations that are doing certain things we believe that it is not reaching the young people, it is not reaching the persons, especially in the rural areas, and we thought that this is one way which we can reach from north to south, east to west, persons who can disseminate the information at that level. We decided to seek out persons who normally don’t come to workshops but who could use the information and the skills to work with their community at the local level. What we did was we asked certain key persons in the health field to identify persons who are influential in their communities.”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Facilitators for the weeklong workshop were Jennifer Lovell and Adele Catzim.

Adele Catzim, Workshop Facilitator
“It’s not just getting knowledge for knowledge sake, but people talking about what actual goals they would like to achieve when they leave from here, how they can coordinate with each other on how to reach those goals and primarily the goals centre around increasing education and awareness on HIV issues, reducing stigma and discrimination in relation to HIV, building care and support services for people who are HIV positive, as well as seeing how they can apply creative methods to achieve the goals.”

Belizean Sharon Nolberto and Peace Corps volunteer Michael Williams are just two of the five persons from Dangriga attending the seminars. Both say their mission now is to spread the word.

Sharon Nolberto, Workshop Participant
“It’s really good for me so that I can go out and try talk to them and educate children. Especially the children, they really need help to learn more about HIV and that’s the reason why I came here and I am learning more.”

Michael Williams, Peace Corps Volunteer
“One of the most important things I have gained is a better understanding of Belizean knowledge on HIV/AIDS or how they, coming off the streets might interpret someone with HIV/AIDS or how they might treat someone, what they might know about it and might not know about it. So it might teach me, going back trying to teach other people knowing how to approach it.”

Approximately fifty-four persons from around the country participated in the workshop.

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Similar initiatives on HIV/AIDS are already being planned by the Peace Corps.
Ch 5:

AIDS Commissioners set example for nation

Last week News Five's Kendra Griffith presented a series of reports on both the necessity for and the ease with which HIV testing can be obtained in Belize. Today one group of Belizeans took her advice.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Today four members of the National AIDS Commission went under the needle at the Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre at the Cleopatra White Health Clinic.

Abel Vargas, N.A.C. Commissioner
“I am here as an advocate to the testing and I am here to advocate and to show people by example that testing is no big deal. We need to know our status and we have to know our status in order to get help is we need some.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you ever been tested before?”

Abel Vargas
“Oh yes, several times. Actually I am a regular blood donor as well.”

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Chair, National AIDS Commission
“We feel that as leaders of the AIDS Commission and in the national response to HIV/AIDS in Belize, we need to be seen to be involved and active. And what better way we thought than some of us come and actually as commissioners do our test.”

For Opposition representative at N.A.C., Kathy Esquivel, the process was painless.

Kathy Esquivel, Opposition Rep., N.A.C.
“Of course nobody likes to take a blood test, but it’s just a minor discomfort. The counselling session was very professional. Some of the questions are quite searching and intimate, but the situation is such that you feel quite comfortable giving your response.”

Nurse Bradley
“Here your result is negative, so I hope ...”

Kathy Esquivel
“I’m glad to hear that.”

Esquivel and Commission Chair Dolores Balderamos-Garcia both agree that if you think you’re not at risk and don’t need to get tested, think again.

Kendra Griffith
“Ambassador what would you say to the persons out there who are thinking, but you don’t need to get tested, you’ve been married for quite a number of years, you have children, why do you need any HIV test?”

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia
“Girl, everybody who is sexually active and you cannot swear even though you may think you are happily married, you can never swear totally and we need to know our status. I don’t want to make an assumption and so I believe that I need to know my status.”

Kathy Esquivel
“Even people that don’t think they might be at risk, you never know because although your behaviour might be as such that you are not putting yourself at risk, maybe your partner’s behaviour does, so nobody can be sure. So even if you think you’re safe, it doesn’t hurt.”

According to Balderamos-Garcia, today’s testing is not a one-time event and actually forms part of efforts countrywide.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia
“For those who were not able to make it today, we’re hoping to get them to come in. We also know that the Ministry of Health is going to launch another “Know your Status” campaign”, so that’s it’s going to be more bombarded in the media. We want to reach out to the districts now in strengthening the district committees so that the community response can kick-in. In addition to the good things that are happening with the Ministry of Health, the Women’s Department for example, the Ministry of Education and our NGO partners.”

But all those community efforts come down to one person: you. Get tested ... right away.

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

The Cleopatra White VCT Centre is open from eight to five, Monday to Friday. If you would like to be tested during lunch or after work, you are asked to call the centre at 223-0541 and make an appointment. Other testing sites in Belize City include the Port Loyola Health Centre on Faber's Road, the B.F.L.A. Clinic on Mercy Lane and the Belize Medical Associates Southside Clinic on Regent Street. In the districts, testing is conducted at the regional and town hospitals.
Ch 7:

U.S. Awards $150,000 in Grants to HIV & Culture

The United States government today announced $150,000 in grants to six govenrment and non-governmental organizations. Sure $150,000 sounds small when you compare it to the tens of millions we get from our friend in the east - Taiwan - or from our friendly ally in the south - Venezuela - but there were no complaints today from the recipients, most of whom work in HIV and Aids prevention and treatment. They picked up their checks at the U.S. Ambassador's residence this morning and 7NEWS was there.

Keith Swift Reporting,
Mark Thessing from the Hands in Hands Ministry received the first of the six checks from Ambassador Robert Dieter. It is only for $4,000 but Thessing said it will help their outreach to parents of children living with HIV.

Both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health got grants for $12,000 each. Chief Education Officer Maud Hyde accepted for the Ministry of Education and Dr. Jorge Polanco did the same for the Ministry of Health.

Maud Hyde, Chief Education Officer
"So this grant will certainly aid us to be able to work more closely with the schools and to organize more direct interventions within the school system."

Dr. Jorge Polanco, Ministry of Health
"As was put in the proposal, the emphasis will be in producing a documentary and three public service announcements with the theme geared towards reducing stigma, reducing discrimination, and at the same time also promoting the use of our voluntary and counseling centers that we have throughout the country."

The Youth Enhancement Services programme also plans to tackle HIV and Aids using mass media but they plan to do it through a movie. Today YES got a production budget of $13,000 from Ambassador Dieter. Karen Cain is YES's Executive Director.

Karen Cain, Y.E.S.
"We felt that it would be important for those young people to get involved into making a movie and the whole idea is to address the stigma and discrimination, prevention, how to really go about getting testing, because some people have a little fear in doing so."

A further $9,000 will go the Young Women's Christian Association to keep the 'Y' alive. That check was picked up by Sonia Lenares.

And speaking of keeping alive - the Institute of Archaelogy got the biggest check - $100,000 to keep history alive. It is exactly $108,680 and the grant comes from the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation. Belize's archaelogy czar Dr. Jaime Awe picked up the big check and says like the US$46,000 which was granted last year to renovate Cerros, this $108,000 will go towards preserving these historic 16th century Spanish churches and this 19th century sugar mill at Lamanai.

Dr. Jaime Awe,
"When the Spanish arrived in the 1600s missionaries were sent from Mexico into Belize to try to convert those Mayan communities still existing here. These missionaries arrived in Lamanai and they built a church. Subsequently the Mayan fighting for their own independence, destroyed the first church. The Spanish returned, built a second church, and eventually that church too in the middle of the 17th century is also destroyed by the Maya in their fight to maintain their freedom. The British eventually come in, in the late 1800s to early 1900s and unlike the Spanish, they establish one of the first sugar mills in the country of Belize.

Today all that remains of these buildings are the ruins that were left behind and the eventual destruction caused by natural forces, the jungle etc. and later on by people scavenging some of the beautiful red bricks from the sugar mill and some of the stone work from the churches. This grant will assist us to conserve these monuments."

Ambassdor Robert Dieter says the grants are an example of the United States upgrading its assistance to Belize.

Robert Dieter, U.S. Ambassador to Belize
"Through the United States' Ambassador's Fund for HIV/Aids the U.S. government is contributing an additional US$25,000 to prevent its spread and help those who are already afflicted. Since 2003 this fund has contributed a total of $80,000 in Belize to help reduce HIV and Aids.

Second the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation is making a contribution to Belize's effort to preserve its cultural heritage. Contributions from the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation not only protects the roots of the past but also nurtures the seeds of the future by creating opportunities for new tourist attractions.

The contributions announced today are an example of the U.S.'s commitment to continue to assist Belizean civil society and non-governmental organizations in their efforts to improve people's health and well-being."
Ch 5:

Pharmacists will take over dispensing of HIV medication
According to the National Health Information and Surveillance Unit, there are three hundred and eighty-one HIV positive Belizeans undergoing anti-retroviral therapy. In fulfilment of a 2004 government promise, that medication is provided free of charge ... and while that is not about to change, the way the medication is distributed is. Director of the National AIDS Programme, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, explains.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director, National AIDS Programme
“The intention is for all pharmacists to get training so that they can eventually be dispensing medication through the pharmacy. Because as it is now, medication is being dispensed through the VCT centres, which are the thirteen sites that we have throughout the country. But it’s not being dispensed through the pharmacists from the regional hospitals, which is eventually the intention with people getting training today.”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
“Why do you all want to change the way it is being dispensed?”

Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“Well because that provides security. Pharmacists are a little bit more trained from their background as regarding looking for side effects, the way it is supposed to be given, with food, without food, those kinds of things ... that’s more a pharmacist’s role than actually a nurse’s role.”

“Just like with any other healthcare worker, nurses, physicians, pharmacists; the confidentiality issue has to be there. Just like that are dispensing medication for other sexually transmitted diseases, for tuberculosis, for example, the same thing can be the case for ARV’s, there should be no reason why we should break that confidentiality issue with the patient.”

Over twenty-five pharmacists are participating in the four-day workshop, which is being held in conjunction with PAHO. The new method for dispensing anti-retroviral medication will be tested in a pilot phase before it is fully adopted next year.
Ch 5:

Latest statistics not encouraging, says AIDS ambassador

Statistics on HIV and AIDS for the third quarter of this year have health officials concerned that more than twenty years after first detecting the deadly virus, Belizeans are still not getting the message. The problem is not only that a growing proportion of those being tested are coming up positive, but that not enough people are taking the test. Today we asked chairperson of the National AIDS Commission, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, whether Belize is winning or losing the battle.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, National AIDS Commission Chairperson
“At the moment I think we are still on the losing side because the figures keep going up, but at the same time we know several things. We know that the reason for all these people testing is still about seventy percent confirming what is highly suspected because people are already getting sick. So people are getting tested late in the course of the epidemic and late in the course the disease that they have which means that they are a lot of thousands of people walking around out there who may not know that they’re infected, finding out late and that is not helping out the situation of all the various agencies fighting HIV/AIDS in Belize. Our official statistics when you like at the U.N.A statistics it is saying that we have about a two point five percent adult prevalence rate of HIV in Belize. My own feeling is that we have gone past three percent.”

The rising infection rate is not the only focus of anti-AIDS efforts. According to Balderamos-Garcia, treating those already living with the disease is a task for all of us.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia
“You need people to assist other people because it’s all of our problem. I have a responsibility if I know my neighbour is taking anti-retroviral pills, three in the morning and three in the evening, its just as much my own responsibility as that person’s own responsibility to stay on that medication. People on medication are less infectious. If they are receiving counselling and support they are less likely to have risky behaviour. And with more and more people getting tested as we continue to encourage throughout all our members of the National Aids Commission I believe in a couple of years time we will be able to say that we don’t have the problem beat but we starting to get on top of it.”

Stewart Krohn, Reporting
“There are many facets to the AIDS problems. You’ve got the prevention of infection, you’ve got stigma and discrimination and you’ve got treatment of people who already have the disease, do we have the resources to take care of all these parts of the AIDS problem?”

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia
“I don’t think that we are so severely challenged on resources at least the financial. Now we are challenged on the human resources because the Ministry of Health in particular and the Ministry of Human Development which is seeing their whole system being completely taxed. We need to have maybe another five hundred people on the medication but also to stem the flow of new infections because you will always be playing catch-up. You can have a hundred percent of your people who need the medication on it but you will be playing catch-up if the prevention isn’t there as well. We’re encouraging everybody to get that test and to begin changing that behaviour. The message cannot be said too often and I don’t want to be the Cassandra but we just need to get on top of this thing and its just getting people to listen.”

As Balderamos-Garcia stated, the majority of people who seek an HIV test do so because they already feel sick. Another large group of people tested are pregnant women who are screened as part of their prenatal care programme. The population segment that is not responding to testing campaigns are those Belizeans who feel fine, but may still be carrying the virus. According to experts, until that group--which includes most of us--volunteers for testing, the epidemic will continue to spread.
Ch 5:

New publication provides HIV/AIDS information

They say that knowledge is power ... and San Ignacio's Cornerstone Foundation is doing its part to make sure that Belizeans stay informed on what's happening with HIV/AIDS. The foundation has begun production of a magazine entitled AIDS Link. It features local, regional, and world news on HIV; info on what organisations are doing around Belize; general information on HIV; and a readers' forum. The publication is available in both electronic and hard copies and will be produced every other month focussing on a different topic. To get your hands on an issue, contact Catherine Butterfield at 824-2373 or 622-4009, or write to AIDS [email protected]. The next AIDS Link is due out in mid-December and will be highlighting HIV education and behaviour change.
Ch 5:

Cornerstone, UNICEF team to help HIV affected kids

Those public education campaigns about HIV and AIDS that we referred to earlier in the newscast often include the fact that many of the people living with the deadly disease are the working class. But tonight we investigate how the pandemic is affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens: our children.

Rana Flowers, Unicef Country Representative
“One of the most underdeveloped countries in the world is Haiti, a conflict riddled country is going to have a lower HIV rate than us. Why? Stigma and Discrimination. Why? Because we adults have not come together and said it’s enough, this is enough. Why are we relegating these people to isolation?”

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Belize has come a long way in terms of educating its citizens about HIV and AIDS but actually getting the public to change their behaviour has been another story altogether. It’s a reality that has significantly contributed to the spread of the deadly disease.

According to a United Nation’s Children Fund study in 2004-2005, the behaviour of adults have either affected or infected more than fourteen thousand children. According to UNICEF Country representative Rana Flowers the boys and girls were either infected through mother to child transmission or orphaned when their infected parents died.

Rana Flowers
“Most of the orphan and vulnerable children that we have here in Belize are not themselves infected with HIV/AIDS, but they are living in a household or in a family that has gone underground because of HIV. They might have been living in poverty prior to the disease and HIV just compounds their isolation, it compounds their economic status and it compounds their lack of access to health care, to education etc.”

The Cornerstone Foundation considers the situation a violation of children’s rights. The organization, through its national network of public and private institutions, plans to respond to the needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS by providing comprehensive care and protection.

Anna Silva, C.E.O., Cornerstone Foundation
“We are hoping that we can build this network as strong as we can possibly could. It will take all the different communities in the different districts to get this done. We have had many families come to us in Cornerstone. Most of the time it is either a parent that is dying. We have had seven year old children taking care of mothers dying from HIV, and that was the first case that really spoke to us.”

The care network has already reached out to more than sixty children and their families in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts.

Lenny Alcoser, Community Information Coordinator, CZL.
“We are presently assisting and caring for ten families, of which eight are adults and thirty-two are children. They are provided with food, clothing and other items. Donations are picked up by all members of the team. The staff of Atlantic Bank Corozal request and brought donations so far consisting of about three hundred pounds of clothing and small cash contributions.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“How many children are you assisting right now?

Angelita Sanchez, Coordinator, Collection/Data, O.W.
“Thirty-seven children. These thirty-seven children come out of twelve families. We have been providing food for them, books for them so that they could be able to continue their studies and not stay at home. Right now in Orange Walk we are the services of the Northern Regional Hospital. The HIV test is offered free of cost and the people are coming to do their test and to know their status. What we are seeing is that instead of the numbers going down they are increasing. So the numbers of children infected and affected will go more.”

Unfortunately, the Belize District has been most challenging because of a lack of volunteers.

Anna Silva
“We are getting people who say that they will come in and then nothing happens, so Belize is our challenge.”

Cornerstone is hopeful that an initiative involving secondary and primary school students will bolster efforts in the central region. The students are being asked to donate their school casual day proceeds to the cause as well as contribute clothing and food.

Troy Banner, Coordinator, Caring for Children, Belize District
“Caring for Children is a project that is not political affiliated or religious. Regardless of your background, ethnicity, whatever, we are suppose to support it because regardless of what we are all infected by HIV/AIDS if not directly … indirectly.”

Cornerstone Foundation Chief Executive Officer Anna Silva says HIV is being spread by stigma and discrimination and…

Anna Silva
“That organizations that are involved or policy makers, whatever you want to call it need to be on the ground. They need to contact small organizations like ours. We need to have people who we can call on where if we do call on them there is a whole lot of bureaucracy you have to go through before you can get any thing accomplished. So we really need to work in that area.”

If you would like to assist in the Caring for Children Belize project you can contact the Cornerstone Foundation at 824-2373.
Ch 5:

Seminar promotes new methods of safer sex
The battle against the virus that causes AIDS is being fought on many fronts including the development of vaccines, the search for a cure, treatments, campaigns to end stigma and discrimination ... and of course efforts to change risky behaviour. Today I observed some new ways to improve the odds in favor of safer sex.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
The statistics are not exact, but it is clear that the vast majority of HIV infections are transmitted by unprotected sex. But why would anyone choose to put his or her life at risk?

Dr. Nesha Haniff, Sr. Programme Manager, LACCASO
“You know I think that it is a natural thing to want to have unprotected sex for both men and women. It is why we want to have sex, to feel the person, to touch the person, to feel loved to want that connection.”

Doctor Nesha Haniff is the senior programme manager for the Latin American and Caribbean Council of AIDS Service Organizations, LACCASO. Haniff explains why it is more likely for a woman to give in than have her partner use a condom. According to Haniff, one of the reasons is because for generations a woman has felt it is her job to please.

Dr. Nesha Haniff
“Not only in terms of sexual matters, but other things as well. She would give her food to her children or her husband or anybody else before herself. So we have historic documentation that women automatically put themselves second.”

Today a consultation seeks to help women gain control over their bodies in order to protect their health. How? The presentation focuses on new prevention technologies that may be more easily accepted. The use of microbicides is one method not yet on the international market, but tested as sixty percent effective.

Dr. Nesha Haniff
“It’s a gel or cream that women could insert in them before sex and it will adhere to the woman’s body and form a shield around the inside of her vagina and that way it can protect her from the HIV Virus.”

“It’s very safe at this point in terms of effectiveness. It is about sixty percent effective, but it is not on the market as yet. It is still being experimented on, it is in trials. So the idea is to work on this in a very quick way so women can have it available to them in maybe two or three years.”

“The other methods like the female condom, which is already on the market that a woman can use so that she can protect herself from HIV. But unfortunately the female condom does involve a discussion with a man because he can recognize it, but that’s much better than having to ask him to use something. ... The female condom has some issues because of the way it is structured, but also it costs some money to buy a female condom. The microbicides are not yet on the market, but women are waiting this very eagerly. They are very excited and they very, very much want to have a product like this for themselves.”

The consultation, hosted by the Alliance Against AIDS, should result in the formation of a core working group in Belize that will learn about the new technologies and prepare to educate the public on their use when they become widely available.

Dr. Haniff says the two best forms of protection against STIs are the male and female condom.
Ch 5:

Ministry of Health launches “know your status” campaign
With some four thousand Belizeans living with HIV and at least one new infection reported daily it's more than clear that dealing with the AIDS pandemic should be one of the nation's highest priorities. Today the Ministry of Health launched a campaign to have as many people as possible learn their HIV status. News Five's Kendra Griffith reports.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Ag. Deputy Dir. Of Health Services
“As Allen lights this candle let us observe that silence for those people also infected and affected with the disease.”

The lighting of the candle of hope and a moment of silence officially marked the launch of the National AIDS Programme’s Know Your Status Campaign.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director, National AIDS Programme
“Basically it is increasing awareness amongst the general population of matters pertaining to the HIV epidemic.”

The initiative is being held under the theme....

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Know Your HIV Status. Get Tested Today ... Know Now! Live Longer!”

One of the activities during the campaign is a countrywide National HIV Testing Day on December first, internationally observed as World AIDS Day.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“The intention is for us to come out and get as many people as possible tested, that’s why we are doing public testing. So we’re asking everybody, regardless of whether you are working or not working, whatever you are doing, if you can spend some time, half an hour of your time, to come out and get tested, take advantage of this opportunity, most places will have public testing available, so if you are shopping downtown Belize City, please just stop on by, get your test and you can have your results in half an hour, forty-five minutes maximum.”

But for many people, the decision to get tested is a difficult one.

Ruth Jaramillo, Technical Director, National AIDS Commission
“Even as health care professionals we sometimes have to know our status and even that experience is never easy, but what is the reward that comes with it?”

Dr. Beverly Barnett, PAHO Country Representative
“Knowledge of our HIV status empowers those who are not infected to remain negative, while enabling those who are positive to access lifesaving interventions and to prevent transmission to their children and their partners. The knowledge of one’s HIV status can be said to be at the core of effective national prevention treatment and care interventions that aim at slowing and ultimately preventing the spread of HIV.”

According to Acting Deputy Director of Health Services, Dr. Paul Edwards, with the availability of rapid testing and free medication for positive persons, there’s never been a better time to know your status.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“In the past when we were encouraging individuals to get tested, the question was what was there if I got tested, what was there if I was positive especially. Today we can surely say that throughout the country there is free HIV test available to every single person who wants to get that test done, the result for the most part is given within an hour with the pre and post test counselling, there is free support in relation to doctors taking care of patients. There is free medication for all those individuals who satisfy criteria.”

Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“If you are HIV positive, your life span can be similar to that of any other chronic disease. It’s actually, the life span is similar to somebody who has documented coronary artery disease for example if you take your medication as given.”

A major deterrent to testing however is the prevalence of stigma and discrimination and the lack of support available for persons living with HIV.

Margaret Ventura, C.E.O. Ministry of Health
“Those who are discriminated against may suffer physically and psychologically, while those who fear discrimination may be reluctant to seek testing or treatment as a result.”

Dr. Paul Edwards
“There are gaps in our system and we need various organizations to step up to the challenge so as to empower persons living with HIV/AIDS to come forward to be able to provide the message and the role model and the examples for many of us, all Belizeans to get tested and know exactly where we are at in relation to this disease.”

Margaret Ventura
“Let us take the time as individuals to try and convince at least one person besides ourselves to get tested as part of this year’s campaign.”

To promote its campaign, the National AIDS Programme will be running ads on TV, radio, and in newspapers.

Kendra Griffith Reporting for News Five.

HIV Testing at different locations countrywide will run from nine Friday morning to seven that night. For more information on where to get tested contact HECOPAB at 223-0117.
Love FM:


Dec 1, 2006

Today is being observed worldwide as International World AIDS Day. In
observance of this day in Belize several activities are taking place across
the country. One of the activities in district towns and cities is free
testing for HIV and AIDS. In Belize City the testing site is at the Bliss
Parking Lot. This morning we spoke with Marvin Manzanero of the National
AIDS Program of the Ministry of Health. Manzanero says that for the
morning many people have come to test. Marvin Manzanero, Ministry of
Health"An invention of doing it in a public place like this is to try to
coax people to come out and get tested. So far we have had some very good
results. It started around nine thirty this morning. We have had about a
hundred plus patients coming in to get tested. It's free but people should
also know that it's free throughout any other facility any other day not
just today. Every other day that you go and get checked. It's free. Other
services being offered include counseling in getting your HIV test. We're
doing public counseling as well, group counseling really." This morning
the test results are available within an hour. Manzanero says that
volunteers that test negative are counseled to remain negative and those
that test positive are also counseled while they wait for their
confirmatory test next week. Manzanero says all testing that is done today
across the country is done with the patient's privacy in mind. Marvin
Manzanero"Well its private I mean, your result is private. If you want to
discuss it with anybody that's up to you but your result as you've noticed
is done inside the trailer, nobody knows except you. Everybody should get
tested. Ever public figure that we had, we invited them to come out here.
If you've noticed UN Agencies, most other people have come out to get
tested. There's nothing with getting your HIV test. The more people you
come out to get tested. If you're negative, we are advising you to continue
a behavior that will make you continue to be negative. If it's positive,
there are changes that you need to make now that there's treatment also."
Marvin Manzanero of the Ministry of Health. The testing at the various
sites across the country will remain open until seven tonight. Based on
statistics, the rate of AIDS cases continue to rise drastically in Belize.
It could be said that there is a positive testing almost everyday. The
persons with the most infections continue to be young men. Today's free
testing is being conducted by the National Aids Program of the Ministry of
Health with collaboration from PAHO and HECOPAB.
Ch 5:

Over 800 tested on World AIDS Day

The numbers are in from Friday's National HIV Testing Day and the news is good. According to Director of the National AIDS Programme, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, over eight hundred people came out to be tested last week. Belize City saw the greatest participation with three hundred, followed by Orange Walk with one hundred and fifty. Cayo saw thirty on Friday and another seventy-five on Saturday. In San Pedro eighty persons were counted, while Corozal, Belmopan, and Dangriga each had sixty and Punta Gorda counted twenty-six. Manzanero is calling the event a success and reminds Belize City residents that in addition to its regular hours, the VCT clinic at the Cleopatra White Health Centre will also be open Saturdays on December ninth, sixteenth, and twenty-third to facilitate those wishing to be tested. The National HIV Testing Day was part of activities for the Know Your Status Campaign launched by the Ministry of Health on November twenty-ninth.
Ch 5:

AIDS stats show levelling of new cases

Present for this morning's launch of the B.D.F. initiative was Director of the National AIDS Programme Dr. Marvin Manzanero. In his presentation Manzanero reported that up to September 2006, there were three hundred and twenty-three new HIV infections and they've projected that by the end of the year that number will rise to four hundred and thirty-one. The 2006 figure is in the same range as 2005's four hundred and thirty-four. Statistics also show that in 2005 AIDS was the fourth leading cause of death for persons age twenty to twenty-nine and ranked as the number one killer of those age thirty to forty-nine years old. The news, however, is not all grim; Manzanero says it's encouraging that more Belizeans are getting tested.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director, National AIDS Programme
“If you do a calculation by year of how many people got tested and are positive and how many are coming out to get tested and are positive, the numbers—even though we seem to have the same number of infections—more and more people are coming out to get tested. So I think that’s a general positive note we need to take heed of.”

“It still means that there is lots of work to be done because we haven’t really changed much the numbers in the last five years. Does that mean we are not heeding the message? It’s kinda difficult to state that as a fact, but we are still with this campaign hoping to come out and get all the positive cases we can because the idea is for that trend to start to reverse, for us to go on a toward trend in regards to new HIV infections, obviously.”

It should be noted that the number of women tested is almost always double the number of men. Part of the reason for this is that women generally tend to make greater use of medical services. Manzanero reminds Belizeans that HIV testing is available year round at government clinics countrywide. The VCT centres have also extended their hours to nine to three-thirty on Saturday, December ninth and sixteenth for people who want to take a test.
Ch 7:

HIV/AIDS Could Cripple the BDF

The Belize Defense Force this morning launched its HIV and AIDS initiative. Important because HIV status and military service have long been at odds for the BDF, which was famously accused of AIDS discrimination by HIV Ambassador Dolores Balderamos Garcia when it wanted to test and get rid of HIV positive soldiers. Now, the BDF is being more tactical in its approach to this delicate issue. At a ceremony today, the force introduced awareness posters and promoted testing. We today found out that the Force Command simply can't afford to have an army with a high incidence of HIV infection.

Lt. Col. Stephen Heusner, Deputy Commander - BDF
"So far the infection rate in the BDF is low. At the moment those with HIV are allowed to stay and contribute to the force. If the infection rate continues to rise however, changes to our policies will have to be made."

That's the declaration that Deputy Commander of the BDF Col. Stephen Heusner made today as the army launched its AIDS initiative. The effort is about making sure that the BDF's infection rate is kept low.

Lt. Col. Stephen Heusner,
"The people in the BDF who are infected with HIV is a very small number. Most of those people are volunteers, as opposed to regular force members and so the concern right now is not that great. However we are concerned that with the continued increase in the figures in our population, that it could affect members of the BDF eventually. If they comes a time in the future where we have to look at an increasing rate in the BDF then of course we will need to look at policy very closely to ensure that we maintain a healthy force so that we can continue to do our job effectively."

And in a physically demanding job such as the BDF, Heusner says that they may have to make unpopular policy adjustments and decisions.

Lt. Col. Stephen Heusner,
"When I say that without the need to change our policies, that means that those people who are HIV positive, considering if it is an alarming number, then we will need to effectively come up with some policy that will affect those."

Alfonso Noble,
It is dazzling to me that an institution like the BDF may be contemplating discrimination.

Lt. Col. Stephen Heusner,
"The type of work that we do in the armed forces… I mean, right now the United States and other countries who we send people on courses to have a strict policy that for our people to go on those courses they have to be HIV negative. Now for us to continue train our people effectively abroad we will need to meet those requirements. If our numbers increase here in the BDF, we will need to start looking at whether or not we will have to become and try to... we are trying as much as possible, not to get people out of the BDF if they become HIV positive. However as we all know this disease increases and develops later on into AIDS and that could have an impact on our effectiveness where we have a large percentage of our forces with this diseases and we will need to try as much as possible...and whatever policy... I don't know what our policy will be if that happens, what I'm saying is we will have to look at it and need to make some policy changes to ensure that we maintain a ready and healthy, effective force."

But before the BDF's policy on HIV and AIDS is revisited, they are first attempting to ensure that the general soldier population has the necessary information. These posters are an addition to the BDF's ongoing education programme. They focus on abstinence, being faithful, use of condoms and knowing your status. And to back up that awareness effort, today after the launch soldiers were offered testing. Earl Bol simply wanted to know and Captain Thomas Cal led by example.

Earl Bol, Soldier
"My girl just took the HIV test because she is pregnant and actually I was supposed to take it a long time ago but I didn't have the time."

Alfonso Noble,
Are you at all nervous?

Earl Bol,
"No. I wanted to know this from a long time, I wanted to do it a long time ago and I got the time now so I am glad."

Captain Thomas Cal,
"I believe it is to show example first that in the BDF that as leaders we need to lead by example and also I think it is something very important and something serious for us to consider and so I took it as one individual doing this test myself, knowing that I have the confidence that I will be negative."

Alfonso Noble,
Are you at all nervous?

Captain Thomas Cal,
"No, not at all."

And maybe he isn't nervous because he's sure of his safe sex practices, or because he has as a fall-back, existing practices by the BDF on soldiers who test positive for HIV.

Lt. Col. Stephen Heusner,
"The policy right now is very clear: we do not get rid of any soldier who has been identified with HIV. We keep them in the force depending on their physical condition and then we will put them in a place whereby they could contribute to the BDF. We do not send people home right now if they are HIV positive. That is the last thing we want to do right now for anybody."

What they do want to do is know an exact prevalence number within the ranks to be able to self evaluate and put response mechanisms in place. Lt. Colonel Ervin Gabourel is the force medical officer.

Lt. Colonel Ervin Gabourel,
"The strategic plan that we are now launching will promote voluntary counseling and testing. So we are trying to encourage people to come in and get tested. If you encourage people and you make them believe or assure them that it is in their best interest to get tested, then that will help us to get the true picture of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the force. Having the true numbers will determine the priority given to this problem. Having a true number, then we will be able to see what we can expect in the future, how much money should be allocated to this particular problem; how many people will we be having down because we won't be able to treat them. So it is very important. Remember this disease has the potential to kill anybody, especially if you don't get the proper treatment.

One of our priority areas that we have underlined in our strategic plan is to have a sustainability to this response and the only way you sustain this response is to keep people aware of the need, the urgency, to know your status. So once we make emphasis on that, people will realize this is something serious and it needs to have all the importance that they do with any thing important in their daily life. Sustainability will be done through a very active group of people that we have who believe that this is a problem that needs utmost attention and to be given all the priority and attention. It comes all the way from the Commander to he last soldier that we have in the force."

And that began today as they queue of soldiers was constant the army hopes this drive and the ABC and K Campaign will be effective, if not it will have to squarely confront the question of whether fighting fit soldiers can carry the HIV virus.

Balderamos Garcia today said she understands the BDF position on having fit personnel, HIV and AIDS should not be the sole standard. She stressed that there is much need for discussion between AIDS advocates and the military.

Ch 7:

Maternal Mortality and HIV/Aids

Over the next 6 days the Ministry of Health along with the National Committee for Families and Children will be holding workshops on communication for behavioral impact. The focus will be on maternal mortality, but - it's not only that and, at the end of the six days, participants would be able to better pass on information about HIV and Aids and domestic violence. Technical advisor Dr. Natalia Larga Espada says that while information is available and accessible, it's not being effectively used.

Dr. Natalia Larga Espada,
"A lot has been done through the different programs and through the different organizations in trying to improve healthy lifestyles among populations but the indicators are saying that we are not too effective. So this is a good moment for us to put a stop and try to do, applying effective techniques that are known to really achieve changes in the population.

Although there is knowledge out there, population has knowledge about the different services that are available and the different ways to prevent these public health problems, the indicators are saying that we are not applying these knowledge and these recommendations of healthy lifestyles.

It is going to help us to be more effective when developing these social communication interventions to let people improve or to practice healthier behaviors.

The services are there. People are utilizing it but from the individual point of view, the actions or the decisions that they have to take to really protect themselves, to really take care of their health is where we are failing. So that is what we are trying to improve."

At the end of the workshops, there will be communication for behavioral impact plans in areas of HIV and Aids, maternal death, domestic violence, influenza and immunization.