AIDS in Belize

Ch 5:

Study shows circumcision reduces HIV risk

In the world of AIDS prevention, much of the focus these days is on new ways to stop transmission of the virus. Among the scientific initiatives being pursued are microbicides, improved male and female condoms, and even vaccines. But recent research has offered solid evidence that one possible way to slow down the spread of HIV comes, not from any new technology, but from a source practiced by the ancient Hebrews and Muslims. Kendra Griffith reports.

Dr. Lisa Johnson, Surgeon, U.H.S.
“Circumcision is a procedure in which the foreskin of the penis or the prepuce is removed from the shaft of the penis. It is quite an old procedure, one of the oldest medical procedures in human civilisation.”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Practically from the time the first circumcision was performed, it has been a controversial practice.

Dr. Lisa Johnson
“I have performed circumcisions on children and adults.”

Dr. Lisa Johnson, a surgeon at the Universal Health Services, says that a circumcision is done for many reasons ... but that medically there are conflicting studies on the custom.

Dr. Lisa Johnson
“For religious reasons, for reasons of a progression into manhood, for reasons of marking people who have been conquered and for reasons of inflicting pain and mutilation. It really became medicalised in the 19th century as surgical techniques developed. For every study that has supported circumcision there is an equally good study that takes away support, that does not support circumcision and actually the position of the American Academy of Paediatrics is that they neither recommend circumcision nor do they say that it is a bad thing.”

Recently, the results of clinical trials conducted in Africa in 2005 and 2006 have put the issue back in the media and medical spotlight. Circumcision, it seems, may make a big difference in your chances of contracting H.I.V.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director, National AIDS Programme
“They found out that people or that males who were circumcised have a risk reduction of around fifty to sixty percent of getting HIV/AIDS over the general average period of two years. Both studies were actually cut short because they found a greater benefit than the uncircumcised groups. For ethical reasons, that’s what you do normally in a study. You have to also take into account that in sub-Saharan Africa you have rates of seventeen, twenty, twenty-four percent, so they are basically trying to use any public health measure that they can to try to reduce the incidence of HIV and spread of HIV.”

Director of the National AIDS Programme, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, explains how circumcision might affect HIV transmission.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“The fact that you have foreskin there, that you have smegma, which is a secretion that is coming around the glands area, has always been thought of as a reservoir for the HIV virus for example, so the fact that the foreskin is no longer there could be a contributing factor for those patients having less HIV. The other thing is the foreskin is also rich in some cells called Langerhans cells, which could be harbouring also the HIV virus. The fact that it is no longer there means you have less viral load at that specific area. Maybe those men who were circumcised were more hygienic after that because they had to take care of a wound, they were counselled, they were probably a little bit more conscious of their sexuality around it after getting an intervention in the genital area.”

But would Belizean men or parents to be consider the surgery to capitalise on that perceived benefit?

Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“Knowing the way we go here in Belize, I don’t think even if you give out that males would be more circumcised than before, I don’t think so.”

Like Dr. Manzanero, we had our doubts and took to downtown Belize City to find out. The results were mixed.

Kendra Griffith
“Would you consider having circumcision if you knew that it would reduce your risk of contracting HIV?”

#1 Citizen
“No, I don’t think that’s supposed to be a method used to reduce the HIV rate. I think we should be mature and know what causes HIV and the preventative methods to put in place to reduce the HIV rate right now.”

#2 Citizen
“Right now the ratings dah Belize really rough, so if that dah wah safe procedure fi mek we circumcise—it has to be from a young age though, then it would be safe I guess.”

Kendra Griffith
“ So you wouldn’t consider doing it as an adult?”

#2 Citizen
“Not at this point, no cause I noh need fi through that again.”

#3 Citizen
“I agree because your first concern is for your child, so I think that you would definitely consider. At least me, I personally would consider it.”

#4 Citizen
“It noh really make sense.”

Kendra Griffith

#4 Citizen
“Because regardless of anything, you could still catch it any way, so I wouldn’t.”

Kendra Griffith
“Would you consider getting the procedure performed on your sons?”

#5 Citizen
“Yeah I would do it for them, because I know they di think wild and I noh actually settle like me. But I settle myself, so I noh need fi goh through that.”

Kendra Griffith
“You would still have to take preventative measures such as using a condom and being safe, would you still do it?”

#6 Citizen
“Sure, why not.”

But before anyone gets too excited, Dr. Manzanero cautions that there are no quick fixes when it comes to HIV prevention.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“The fact that you are circumcised does not mean that you can go ahead and engage in high risky sexual behaviour. That is not the case. You might have one risk factor less, but still you have to still use a condom, still practice safe sex every time you have a partner. We go back to the same issues, the abstinence, the be faithful, the condom usage, and we have to wait for further studies for us to give conclusive evidence and try to start promoting male circumcision as another means of preventing HIV/AIDS.”

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.
Re: "“I have performed circumcisions on children and adults.”

Cho! :scared Me woulda fraid! I circumsized my son though.
Ch 5:

Alliance Against AIDS reviews and plans

This afternoon, the Alliance Against AIDS formally presented is action plan for 2007 to the media and partners. According to Executive Director Rodel Beltran Perera, although 2006 was both busy and challenging, they are looking forward to working with HIV positive persons and other agencies in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Rodel Beltran Perera, Executive Director, A.A.A.
“One of the major areas that is important for us is that how we have been mobilising people living with HIV. I think that this year is going to see us continue to mobilise and to recruit people who are HIV positive into our work and to see how they can participate more energetically, more fully, more making the decision for themselves, so this project will see us continue that area. But one of the newer areas that this project will see us do for this year is advocating for an improvement in services to people who are accessing medical clinics, medical hospitals, voluntary counselling and testing sites.”

“We have seven additional activities as part of this project that will see us continue doing. For example, doing baseline, gathering information, the introduction of microbicides and vaccines and those initiatives around those areas, so we will see also the continuation this year of training our partners and that is special to us as part of the project.”

For more information on Alliance Against AIDS and the services they offer, you can contact their hotline at 223-6911. Perera says they are also on the lookout for volunteers.
Ch 7:

'Comfort Zone' for Students at Gwen Liz

What does a large sofa, microwave oven, and big screen television have to do with HIV and Aids awareness and counseling? Well planners at the Ministry of Education hope it'll be an open sanctuary to students at Gwen Lizarraga High School. With money from the Global Fund, the Ministry of Education is testing another approach to HIV and Aids education and counseling. The concept is called the 'Youth friendly space' and today Keith Swift visited what students at Gwen Liz are calling their comfort zone.

Keith Swift Reporting,
Gwen Liz's "Youth Friendly Space" is furnished with a large screen TV, a DVD player, a boom box, a small microwave, a refrigerator, and a sofa set. Looks like a lounge but principal Lorna McKay says it's the three Rs - relax, recreation, and research.

Lorna McKay, Principal - Gwen Lizarraga High School
"It is a lounge but it is more of a student activity center where they can do a lot of reading, research, and that type of work. There is a library on the corner there. We have the lunch area, we have television where they can look at the tapes, we have pamphlets on Aids and other issues affecting our country. They can come in here and do research and they can come and relax. They can come and talk to each other. As long as they don't break up the center they can come in at anytime."

The 'Youth friendly space' was once the school's library. It was transformed into this youth friendly space by the Ministry of Education. It is part of a project funded by the Global Fund. Nelson Longsworth is Director of QUADS. He explained why Gwen Liz was chosen for the pilot project.

Nelson Longsworth, Director - QADS
"There were several studies done that show that the high risk students tend to be in this general area. I think only they know best at the end of the day what works for them and having a space where they can discuss and share information in regards to healthy living, I think it is fundamental to the concept. So we are hoping that is what will happen. We truly believe that a space like this is needed in all our high schools and our schools per say where students feel comfortable in coming together and sharing information or accessing information relevant to their health."

Kenroy Young is one of the 700 students attending Gwen Liz. He is in fourth form and a peer helper. He says that for students - the friendly space is a comfort zone.

Kenroy Young, Peer Helper - Gwen Liz
"We have a microwave where we can warm our food from home, a refridge, and having this comfort zone also there is a library within this comfort zone and it is a good resource center and a positive thing for the students and it leads them towards other great alternatives. For example they would hang out in the yard after school doing nothing and now they have this room to utilize to do watch TV, to come and learn about something wise."

Plans are to open similar youth friendly spaces in other high schools.
Ch 5:

Workshop focuses on gender aspects of HIV

HIV/AIDS ... it's been around for over two decades and the way the situation looks, it'll be with us for quite a while. According to UNAIDS statistics, at the end of 2006 there were thirty-nine point five million people worldwide infected with HIV and seventeen point seven million of them are women ... which is why this week thirty Belizeans have been participating in a workshop to integrate gender analysis into HIV/AIDS programmes to make their campaigns more effective. The workshop is a collaborative effort between the National AIDS Commission and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM. Monique Springer, Programme Associate for Gender and HIV/AIDS at UNIFEM, today told News Five why the sessions are important.

Monique Springer, Programme Assoc. for HIV/AIDS, UNIFEM
“We are giving them tools in basic gender analysis concepts and also how to integrate these concepts into their programmes and policies, what we are calling gender mainstreaming.”

“In the Caribbean, HIV is mainly transmitted through sexual activity, and sexual activity is very much a gendered behaviour if the sexual activity occurs between men and women in heterosexual relationships or between men and men in same sex relationships and as well women and women in same sex relationships. So we need to understand the gender causes and consequences of what’s fuelling the epidemic in the Caribbean to be able to address, to have a more holistic and responsive programmes to address the problems.”

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Chair, National AIDS Commission
“We have the challenge of prevention, and then we have the challenge of care, treatment and support of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and thirdly we have the huge challenge of stigma and discrimination. Now, knowing that we have those challenges and knowing that gender is the relationships between those men and women and the learned behaviours in relation to how girls and women should behave and how boys and men should behave and issues of sexuality, human rights, these are issues that are being examined because we really believe that if we take this approach it will better equip all our persons that are stakeholders in the field to be able to do the work.”

UNIFEM's project, "Capacity Building for Mainstream Gender Analysis in HIV/AIDS Programming in the Caribbean" has already been implemented in five Caribbean countries.
Ch 5:

Soldiers run cross county to fight HIV

On Monday, five men and five women of the Belize Defence Force embarked on an eight-day mission entitled "Give Something Back." The soldiers are running and walking three hundred and sixty-seven miles across the country to raise both awareness about HIV and funds for children living with the virus. The group left Jalacte on the twenty-sixth and after a hundred and seventy-eight mile journey, arrived in Belmopan this afternoon. Commander of the Belize Defence Force, Brigadier General Lloyd Gillett, told us how the money will be used.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett, Commander, B.D.F.
“They are hoping that the public will come out and contribute to them as they pass through the different villages and towns. They will be arriving in Belize City on the thirty-first and we are hoping that the residents of Belize City will come out and contribute funds. The funds will be channelled to Cornerstone Foundation and it’s for children living with AIDS.”

Kendra Griffith
“How are they holding up so far?”

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“Well so far from what I hear they are doing well. Imagine the heat that they are running in, but it shows the perseverance and the fitness of the B.D.F. soldiers. I think it’s good weather for them to show the public that the B.D.F. is well trained, the B.D.F. is fit and ready.”

On Saturday, the soldiers are expected to arrive in the city around one-thirty. Coming off the Western Highway, they will run into Cemetery Road, on to Albert and Queen Streets and down Freetown Road, ending at the overpass at the Flag Roundabout.

On Sunday, the soldiers leave the old capital for Orange Walk. According to organiser Lt. Derrick Castillo, a scout group will be joining the soldiers about a mile outside of town. From Orange Walk, they head to Corozal, ending at the Santa Elena border on Monday. If you would like to contribute to the cause, contact
Lt. Castillo at 604-3758. Seventy-five percent of the money will go to the Cornerstone Foundation in San Ignacio, while the remainder will aid the B.D.F.'s HIV prevention and education efforts.
Ch 5:

Anglican HIV/AIDS project dubbed a success

Last June, the Anglican diocese of Belize launched a pilot project in one high school and seven primary institutions to incorporate an HIV/AIDS education programme into their curriculum. Today News Five's Kendra Griffith received a status report from administrators.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
This morning teachers from seven Anglican institutions were getting schooled in HIV as part of the third phase of their pilot project.

Michelle Elliott, Programme Coord., Anglican Diocese
“Since the curriculum focus on age appropriateness education, the Health and Family Life suggestion was that good touch and bad touch is taught within their division. So here at this workshop we are using the good touch and bad touch campaign to incorporate along with HIV education.”

“They are not going to be talking about maybe sexual transmissions and so, but they are going to know the basic concepts and knowledge of HIV/AIDS and different values, such as decision making, problem solving that will later on equip then to make correct decisions.”

At a ceremony today all eight of the participating institutions shared their project ideas.

Michelle Elliott
“The action plans features the students working along with the community and not only within the school. By working within the community they get to reach their neighbours, they get to reach parents, friends. So the school works in collaboration with other NGOs such as B.F.L.A., National AIDS Commission, Alliance Against AIDS, and these NGOs offer resource personnel to the schools. The schools then use the resource personnel and take the ideas to the community. The children do parades, they do parent education sessions, they also go and do home visits, and make donations towards the different HIV and AIDS causes.”

The pilot project has impacted approximately two thousand primary and high school students and a hundred teachers.

Carol Babb, Manager, Anglican Schools
“It’s been received well. I have comments from parents that their children are coming home to them and telling them what they should do to protect themselves from getting HIV and AIDS, visitors who go to our schools are very impressed with what they are seeing and all the posters and the activities and the HIV/AIDS Awareness Corners in our schools, so I think it’s received very, very well.”

As part of their activities, the diocese held a poster and poetry competition. The winning design was submitted by seven standard four students of Queen Square Anglican School. Today the kids told us how they “Choose your Road.”

Denille Neal, Winner, Poster Competition
“From my teacher who teach us health science. We took everything out of our books and each one of us put together some ideas and said, you know something, it’s best we just get all our ideas together and put it on the poster.”

Kendra Griffith
“And when you all found out that you won, how did you feel?”

Denille Neal
“Like me, I went around telling everybody I won.”

Kendra Griffith
“How about you, how did you feel?”

Andrea Silva, Winner, Poster Contest
“Happy, because we didn’t believe that we were going to come in first and so we were very happy.”

Carol Babb
“We are going to mass produce that poster. We are going to put a huge billboard in our Cathedral’s yard, St. John’s Cathedral and we are hoping that the entire populace will make the right choice, will choose the right road, which means to be faithful, to be tested and to stick to one partner.”

Standard Six student at St. Andrew’s School in San Ignacio, Kenron Requeña took the top prize in the poetry competition for his verse titled: HIV/AIDS What If?

Kenron Requeña, Winner Poetry Contest
“My family motivated me to write a poem to submit to the school to encourage all the HIV positive [people] to remember something that some people are thinking of them and hope that they will not be discouraged.”

The pilot project comes to an end in May, but the administrators are hoping that they’ll be able to access funding to implement the initiative in all twenty-two Anglican schools in the country.

Carol Babb
“Our funders came down and they were very pleased with what they have seen and they have already given us the go ahead to submit the other proposal to roll over to all the other Anglican schools.”

Funding is being sought from the Episcopal Relief and Development Centre in the United States. Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

The Episcopal Relief and Development Centre financed the pilot project. The Anglicans are hoping they'll be able to roll out the expanded initiative in time for the next school year.
Ch 5:

Latest AIDS statistics show no dramatic progress


And while health authorities prepare for the possibility of an Avian Flu outbreak, they must also deal with the existing scourge of HIV and AIDS. The Ministry of Health has released the 2006 annual statistics on the virus and while the numbers are open to interpretation, it appears that neither side in the struggle can claim victory. According to the National AIDS Programme, there were a total of four hundred and forty-three new HIV infections reported in 2006, compared to four hundred and thirty-four in 2005. In forty-three cases the virus resulted in AIDS last year versus thirty the year before. In 2006, seventy-five Belizeans died of AIDS, one less than in 2005. One area where there was a significant change from year to year was the ratio of men to women contracting the virus. In 2006, two hundred and fifty-three males tested positive and one hundred and ninety females, while in 2005 the numbers were two hundred and twenty-four and two hundred and ten respectively. For men, the greatest number of positive cases was spread fairly evenly over the twenty to forty-nine age group, while women testing HIV positive tended to cluster heavily in the twenty to twenty-nine range. Since 1986, three thousand, eight hundred and five HIV infections have been diagnosed in Belize with seven hundred and one people dying from AIDS.
Ch 7:

HIV Message Gets Pop Culture Currency


Marketing HIV and Aids awareness is an industry unto itself and, it seems the higher the incidence of HIV infections, the more money is spent to spread the message of safe sex. Most of the messages are directed at youths but putting many messages out there doesn't mean that the message is getting through. In fact, we'd venture to say that many of those messages are lost in transmission or translation. But now, Youth for the Future says it has an HIV message that will work for at-risk youth. Why? Well it's in the language of the youth culture: dancehall and hip hop music. Manager for what's known as multi-sector approach project says that a new song produced by Youth for the Future and performed by Dan Man and Weesy Will hit the spot.

Douglas Hyde, Youth for the Future
"The area of utilizing our young Belizean artists in the area of music is a good approach and effort to get them to understand more about the idea of HIV and Aids and information. This video is focusing on the message of know the facts specifically on HIV and Aids.

Because over the past couple of years we recognize that music is a way of reaching our young persons, definitely the type of music used and stuff like that, we've realized that the Belizean young person with their techniques and skill can carry out this message instead of a preaching to them to try to educate them about the right information when it comes to HIV and Aids.

The area of music, specifically reggae music, has captured a lot of people and definitely Belize is no different when it comes to reggae music and this is a part of it mixed with hip-hop. And so we believe that it will get the message out to other young persons."

And we leave you on this Friday night with the world premiere of that video for the song "Know the Facts" by Dan Man and Weesy.
Ch 5:

B.D.F runners hand over money to HIV families
You might have seen them on your travels ... young members of the Belize Defence Force on a cross country journey on foot! But the investment of sweat, blood, and tears was not about personal accomplishments because as News Five's Kendra Griffith reports, the soldiers are the latest to support the fight against HIV.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Between March twenty-sixth and April second, ten soldiers from the Belize Defence Force ran and walked three hundred and sixty-seven miles across the country. Their journey began in the village of Jalacte in the Toledo District and ended at the Santa Elena Border in Corozal.

Lt. Derrick Castillo, Organiser
“It actually took us ten hours from Punta Gorda to Independence, which was the most time we ever spent on the road, running.”

Officer Cadets Megan Aspinall and Kimberly Cain were two of five women on the trek.

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

Megan Aspinall, Office Cadet
“I think it was the challenge of saying you’re running from P.G. to Corozal and I wanted to say that I could accomplish something like that, running. So that was my reason for doing it.”

Kendra Griffith
“Did you prepare far in advance for this?”

Megan Aspinall
“No. I came to work and they asked me and it was like the Friday and by the Monday it started.”

Kendra Griffith
“What would you say was the toughest leg?”

Kimberly Cain, Officer Cadet
“The toughest leg, I would say was from Dangriga to Belmopan because of the hills. It was kinda strenuous for us going up the hills and going down, but it was okay.”

But bragging rights and physical prowess weren’t the only reasons why the soldiers ran ... they also wanted to “Give Something Back.” Lt. Derrick Castillo was the man behind the mission.

Lt. Derrick Castillo
“I came up with this idea after watching a show or programme on either one of Channel Five or Seven with Miss Ana Silva from Cornerstone Foundation and a next lady from Corozal and they had this issue about children living or affected by HIV and AIDS and they were trying to get contribution from all non-government agencies and all business places, so I said we could come up with some idea as members of the Belize Defence Force to support such a situation and so we did.”

Today, the Force handed over the proceeds of the marathon--a cheque for six thousand, one hundred and twenty-five dollars--to the Cornerstone Foundation’s Caring for Children Belize. The organisation assists families affected by HIV.

Troy Banner, Bz. District Coordinator, Caring for Children Belize
“This project provides minor food items, toiletries, as well as assistance in schoolbooks, socks, clothes and stuff like that.”

Lt. Derrick Castillo
“The funds were raised by basically sending letters out to business places and then getting contributions along the route from the business places that we meet, we also meet people along the route that would give us money.”

Troy Banner
“A little bit goes a long way. If it was only five dollars they were giving, believe me, one family could get something out of that five dollars. So I must congratulate the B.D.F. for putting their outstanding effort to contribute to children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS because, as we all know, living with HIV is not an easy road to go and secondly, taking on that strain by yourself, you need help.”

Commander of the Belize Defence Force Brigadier General Lloyd Gillett commends the soldiers’ initiative.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett, Commander, B.D.F.
“I am proud that they were able to raise over six thousand dollars for an honourable cause. We need to take up the issue of children living with HIV/AIDS. The children are our future and we need to provide for them.”

And although the eight-day journey was gruelling, the soldiers say they stand ready to do it again.

Lt. Derrick Castillo
“Certainly ma’am, if God spares life we’ll be willing to do this again next year, same time.”

Kendra Griffith
“Would you do it again?

Kimberly Cain
“Of course, definitely.”

In addition to the cash, this morning the B.D.F. also donated exercise books, two coolers, and a flash drive to Caring for Children. Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

The Caring for Children Belize City office is located on third floor of the Commercial Centre. They are currently assisting twenty-five families. The soldiers would like to thank all their sponsors and supporters, especially Casey Broast, Print Belize, Brodies, and Bowen and Bowen.
Ch 5:

HIV prevention projects get positive report cards

Every year millions of dollars are spent in an effort to promote behaviour changes and curb the spread of HIV. Today, the financial donors of one such programme in our region took the time to find out if their money went to good use. News Five's Kendra Griffith reports.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
With funding from the OPEC Fund and technical support from the UNFPA, in 2003 six countries in Central America and the Caribbean began implementing HIV-related projects targeted at vulnerable youths.

Dr. Mario Vergara, OPEC Fund/UNFPA Prog. Coordinator
“The project is aimed at strengthening partnerships among different levels, from the political levels, towards operational and technical levels and also community levels. It’s also aimed to strengthen capacity building through the supply and demand of youth friendly services to prevent HIV among especially vulnerable youth, and the third, we are seeking for innovative approaches with youth participation for the different activities and strategies contained in the project.”

Three years and three point two million U.S. dollars later, representatives from Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, and St. Lucia have gathered at the Radisson Fort George Hotel for a final review of the project’s results and challenges.

Jose Ferraris, Deputy Dir., LatAm & Caribbean Division, UNFPA
“This meeting will provide us with the opportunity to exchange experiences and share lessons learnt among each of the participating countries, governments and other regional partners, discuss the conclusions and recommendations based on the programme results and external evaluation that was conducted on this particular project and as my colleagues have already mentioned to identify areas for scaling up HIV prevention among especially vulnerable youth in the region.”

Dr. Mario Vergara
“According to the evaluations, one of the major findings is that precisely strong partnerships have been established in each of the participating countries, and in the case of Belize, there has been a well-known political support toward the movement of reproductive health including HIV/AIDS prevention. Of course youth participation is also an essential component which also has been promoted in the projects.”

According to Programme Coordinator Dr. Mario Vergara capacity building and stigma and discrimination remain challenges in the participating countries.

Dr. Mario Vergara
“Capacity building is not just a matter of equipment and training. It has to do with technical assistance, it has to do with team work, it has to do with results based management, it has to do with ownership. There has to be a strong sense of ownership and of course accountability, that is important.”

“There is still discrimination towards men who have sex with men, towards drug users, towards gangs members, towards commercial sex workers, so a lot of that has to be done in the project.”

So what happens now that the project’s three years are up?

Dr. Mario Vergara
“We talk about capacity building and sustainability, these efforts must continue and they must continue with UNFPA’s own resources and/or with government initiatives. That would be the best option, that government supports and finance these kinds of important initiatives related to HIV/AIDS prevention.”

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

The meeting ends on Wednesday.
Ch 5:

Condom machines: the latest in HIV prevention

Get tested, stick to one partner, practice safe sex: those are only some of the messages that health experts keep reiterating to the public in an effort to reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections. And today, the first phase of a project was implemented which will help people with at least one of those habits. News Five’s Kendra Griffith explains.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
This morning two condom vending machines were installed in the bathrooms of The Planet nightclub located at the corner of Queen and Handyside streets. The initiative is part of the Strengthening Belize’s MultiSectoral Response to HIV/AIDS project financed by the Global Fund.

Elvis Requeña, Project Coordinator, BEST
“It is to basically set up non-traditional ways of trying to get people to use protection when they engage in sex. ... Nightclubs, usually people are very sociable when they are socialising and have alcohol, so we thought that it would be the best place to roll out the initiative since people get a little bit cosy and more friendly when they are involved in this kind of setting, so that’s why we chose nightclubs to start with.”

According to Planet Manager Gerald Molina, by helping their patrons to practice safe sex they are doing their part to reduce the rate of infections.

Gerald Molina, Manager, The Planet
“We have this idea to make sure Belize start to change, start to be more healthy because AIDS is a really, really bad problem in this country.”

“When I go to clubs I try to make sure that I am always safe. Sometimes you meet somebody and you wanna you know—go out or whatever and in that hour you can’t buy a condom that’s why we put here in Planet, you know. We try to make Planet be the safe club in the whole country.”

Clubbers will be able to access the condoms, for a reasonable fee, when The Planet opens on Friday night.

Elvis Requeña
“PASMO is the organisation that is providing the condoms and they are providing the condoms to us at two twenty-five and the person getting the condom will get three condoms at two twenty-five.”

Vending machines—especially in Belize—can sometimes be frustration, but this one is not too complicated, although you will need to have exact change. After putting in your two dollar coins and a shilling in the slots, turn the knob completely to the right or left to deposit the money and release the condoms.

According to BEST project coordinator, Elvis Requeña, they have thirteen more of the machines that they plan to distribute around the country.

Elvis Requeña
“Everything is based on the reception that these two machines have at this particular club. We will monitor them over a six week period and look at how the response is and based on that then we will roll out the rest of the machine countrywide.”

The National AIDS Programme will have the responsibility of keeping the machines stocked with condoms. Kendra Griffith Reporting for News Five.

If you are interested in having one of the machines at your business place, contact the Ministry of Health’s National AIDS Programme at 822-2059.
Ch 5:

Latest HIV statistics not encouraging
The statistics on HIV and AIDS for the second quarter of 2007 have been released and they do not make for happy reading. According to the report issued by the Ministry of Health there were one hundred and thirty-seven new cases of HIV infection recorded from April through June. This compares to seventy in the same time period in 2006 and ninety-three for the previous quarter, January through March. It’s a big jump, the kind of increase usually explained by a corresponding rise in the number of people tested. Such was not the case this time however, as although the number of people tested rose by nineteen percent from last year, the number of positives increased by ninety-six percent. The same trend was demonstrated in the testing of pregnant women. In that more random sample of almost two thousand mothers-to-be, the prevalence rate more than doubled from 2006 to 2007 from point five percent to over one percent. Officials with the National AIDS Programme caution that statistics need to be analyzed over the long term and quarterly results can be misleading. In the absence of a convincing explanation, however, the latest numbers suggest that no matter how loud the anti AIDS message, Belizeans may not be getting it.

AIDS medication works ... but only if taken properly
Another side of the HIV equation, that of treatment for those infected also has its downside. It seems that while antiretroviral medication is available, it is not necessarily being used properly.

Dr. Pedro Arriaga, Internist K.H.M.H.
“We try to be as realistic as possible, we were not expecting hundred percent improvement. Some of the patients they still with this kind of condition, because it is a serious disease, will die even if we try to use medications. But you see patients coming to the hospital getting the medication, they stop taking the medication even though the medication is free of cost, even the blood test is free of cost, they stop taking medication and when they come and see the doctor, they are in a different type of condition. You feel so good when a patient is getting better, taking medications but you start feeling so frustrated when the patient that was doing so well, stop taking medication and starts going back to the bad conditions they had before.”

The government’s treatment programme dates back to 2003.
Love FM:


September 14, 2007

The latest report on new HIV cases in Belize is out and the news is not good. The report shows that even though the number of persons testing continues to rise so does the number of positive cases.Doctor Marvin Manzanero is the Director of National AIDS Program in the Ministry of Health.

Doctor Marvin Manzanero,Director of National AIDS Program:

“Yes,we have 137 new cases in three months.Although that is not the highest number of cases we’ve had per quarter,it is alarming because it doubles what we had in the first quarter this year.But also when we reported 70 is the first quarter,which was very,very low,nobody said anything.”

Arturo Cantun,Love FM:

“Do you think this relates to more people testing?”

Doctor Marvin Manzanero,Director of National AIDS Program:

“In a way,yes.Because if you look at the total amount of people who got tested,which is 2,426 which is more than 400 tests in the same quarter for the previous year.So I would say that is a big increase,yes.”

Arturo Cantun,Love FM:

“Doctor Manzanero,we see more cases coming out.Perhaps being are adhering to the testing,but do you think that people out there are still not getting the message of being protected?”

Doctor Marvin Manzanero,Director of National AIDS Program:

“I think you can look at it from both ways.The fact that we have more numbers is because people are coming out to get tested,but we would obviously like to see lesser number of cases being reported on a whole,or lesser number of positives cases,that is.So it seems that the message is not getting across.The message in essence is that people know how they can become infected and that is not happening because people are still not changing their behavior.”

Doctor Manzanero said that for the second quarter, which records statistics from April to June 2007, there has been three reported cases of children between the ages of one and four who have tested positive. In addition to this the ratio of male to female continues to be one to one.

Doctor Marvin Manzanero,Director of National AIDS Program:

“We don’t have that information breakdown as to,whether it’s coming from a homosexual community or heterosexual community or even a bi-sexual community.We don’t have those numbers broken down as such.What we do know is that the amount of females and males becoming infected is practically the same.If you look at the second quarter we had 70 males and 67 females.So it’s a one-to-one ratio.What we do know is that the main mode of transition in Belize is sexual contact.”

Arturo Cantun,Love FM:

“You did say that the message is not going through,but have you noticed any culture thing that more cases are reported in a certain ethnic group?”

Doctor Marvin Manzanero,Director of National AIDS Program:

“We don’t people’s ethnicity because everybody defines themselves in different fashions.What we do know is that the majority of cases are still coming where the prevalence rate is higher in both Stann Creek and Belize.Actually,in the Belize district we got 117 out of the 137 cases.”

For the second quarter a total of ten new AIDS cases have been registered and compared to other years is low. However because certain patients have stopped taking treatment the number of AIDS death is thirteen for this second quarter. According to observations made by the Ministry of Health, the main challenge in the fight against HIV / AIDS is changing the lifestyle of people.

Doctor Marvin Manzanero,Director of National AIDS Program:

“It seems that it’s changing people’s behavior,and I think the same thing applies to other entities such as road traffic accidents,where you have people,knowing what precautions to take and still engaging in that risky behavior.It’s the same thing that applies to HIV/AIDS.People know how they will become infected,but people are still not changing their behavior And that’s kind of difficult to pinpoint to one single reason why that’s not happening.I think it’s simply because people think that it cannot happen to them,that if a person looks healthy or looks good,that that person cannot have HIV and that’s the primary mistake we’re making.”

Presently the Ministry of Health is offering treatment to five hundred and eighty four patients. One of the main concerns however is that in this recent quarter fifty three out of the one hundred and thirty seven new HIV cases are people in the ages group twenty to twenty nine. Manzanero said Belize continues to have the highest prevalence rate in Central America.
Ch 5:

AIDS activists seek better marketing of condoms
The use of condoms has always been a key factor in efforts to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, but getting people to use the devices is not as easy as you’d think.

Norman Garcia, Country Manager, PASMO
“Abstinence first and then if you know that it is going to happen then please go ahead and get the condom.”

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
That’s the advice given to any young woman or man who is thinking of buying and using a condom for the first time. The Ministry of Health reports that in Belize it is the teenaged population that is at risk from contracting HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Natalia Largaespada, Coordinator, Maternal/Child Health, M.O.H.
“Girls and boys start having sex at the age of eighteen but we know that we have girls pregnant from twelve years and so that is a fact that we have to deal with.”

The fight against HIV and AIDS has been a challenge for all concerned especially the Pan American Social Marketing Organization. PASMO has been conducting countrywide educational campaigns including the promotion of condoms in a variety of brands, colours and special available at over one hundred outlets.

The Got it, Get It promotional television campaign is one part of that effort. The plan is to have the logo placed at four hundred distribution outlets where customers will feel more open and comfortable when they go to purchase a condom.

Norman Garcia
“Once they walk in and they are able to see this logo they know that okay this person understands my situation, this person will assist me and they can get their condoms.”

“Which is encouraging young people to not be afraid. Somebody or store owners will not judge you based on our message that we take to the store owners in sensitizing them that when a young person comes into your outlet they are able to pick up their condoms and they won’t feel that they are being judged, being looked at funny.”

PASMO’s Country Manager Norman Garcia says of the one hundred and seventy-four outlets they have contacted eighty-five percent have posted the Got It, Get It logo.

Norman Garcia
“Some have flatly refused simply because they will say well, we simply cannot put ourselves out there like that so there are still some misconceptions and bad perception with the sale of condoms.”

In an effort to get as many outlets onboard today PASMO held a one day workshop. The session was facilitated by Kerry Singh, the regional marketing manager of Population Services International.

Kerry Singh, Regional Marketing Manager, P.S.I.
“I think that a lot of the older heads or the more traditional heads in society still frown upon condoms and condom use and I think what the situation in Belize calls for is a lot of stakeholders to really be in touch with the reality of the situation that is taking place out there with young people. I think not just Belize but Caribbean young people are having sex from as early as twelve, thirteen, fourteen.”

Kerry Singh says since P.S.I. initiated the Got It, Get It Campaign he has found a broad acceptance of condoms throughout the Caribbean. Singh hopes the results will be the same in Belize. Singh says P.S.I. will be producing localised Belizean TV ads that should be ready to air by mid November.
Ch 5:

U.S Embassy presents funds to fight AIDS
As donations go, the total amount of cash is not huge, but for the half dozen organisations and hundreds of Belizeans that will share the largesse, it can be crucial. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Today the six recipients of the United States Ambassador’s Fund HIV Prevention Program Grants were officially announced during brief ceremonies at the Y.W.C.A. conference room. According to Ambassador Robert Dieter, this year’s projects are designed to eliminate the disease’s two most painful side effects.

Robert Dieter, U.S. Ambassador to Belize
“Stigma and discrimination is based largely on fear. It is important that we get the message out that AIDS and HIV is not spread through casual contact, such as sitting next to someone on a bus or sharing utensils or speaking with someone. The AIDS virus does not exist easily outside of the human body and so it can’t be transmitted in these forms. People diagnosed with HIV who are diagnosed early can live a healthy and productive life.”

This year’s grants total fifty thousand Belize dollars. After they endorsed their cheques, representatives of the respective organizations shared how they will be using the funds.

Kirsty McKay, Together We Can, Belize Red Cross
“With the funds we have received, we will be continuing to educate our young people in Belize about the importance of preventing further infection of HIV, the importance of reducing stigma and discrimination and the importance of going for testing, to know your status. We are producing informational brochures that will be distributed through all social mobilization activities and will also be distributed through our trainings as well.”

Evan Cowo, Executive Director, CARE Belize
“I would like to thank the Ambassador’s HIV Prevention Program for giving us this opportunity to create materials in Braille as well as in sign language that we will be able to use to create this awareness and these prevention programs on HIV for the population that have disabilities. We have been carefully reviewing the initiatives, the national initiatives on HIV/AIDS and we don’t see that this population is included.”

Nurse Judith Cuellar-Krieg, Equity House, Hopkins Village
“And in Belize terms, it’s sending the gossip tree in a positive manner so all that means is that you know gossip can ruin a community in a very negative way and so we are going to send the gossip tree in a very positive way by targeting key people that can pass the gossip around with the true disseminated information about HIV and AIDS.”

Michelle Irving, Productive Organization for Women in Action
“Our focus have been in Dangriga to use creative methods to attract the population or to let the population think about what is happening. Stigma and discrimination, care and support is some of the key issues and we will use this grant to continue to do that, to bring a creative approach that would especially attract the young people.”

Sonia Linares, Executive Director, Y.W.C.A.
“We have been working with rural women and we felt it is also important to work with the young women and the other young people in high schools and so we will be going out to the three villages in the Belize District where we will be conducting workshops in the whole area of HIV/AIDS prevention. We will also train our youth here in Belize City, we have a program called Helping Early Leavers Program where we work with out of school at risk young women and we will be having them involved in the training as peer educators.”

Greta Jenkins, Youth Enhancement Services
“What we’ll be doing with this money that we received, we are going to mass reproduce our movie that we did, “Precious”, and we are going to put a teaching guide with it and take it into the schools the schools can use it as a teaching manual.”

And according to Embassy Public Relations Officer Thomas Wise, it’s easy for local groups to take advantage of the Ambassador’s Fund.

Thomas Wise, Public Relations Officer, U.S. Embassy
“The nice thing about the program is there’s no real requirement for it; you don’t have to be an expert in HIV/AIDS, you just have to have an idea and have the capacity to be able to follow through with it.”

Since the HIV Prevention Program was established in 2002, thirty-five projects have been awarded two hundred and seventeen thousand dollars to increase awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

In addition to the grant money disbursed today, the U.S. Embassy in Belize will also be producing 2008 calendars with HIV-related information and services using submissions from the 2007 poster competition.”
ch 5:

New initiative launched to help children affected by HIV/AIDS
We begin our news coverage tonight with a look at some new initiatives against the HIV epidemic. And while they happen to coincide with World AIDS Day on Saturday, the need for coherent action is both real and urgent. Janelle Chanona has our first report from Belmopan.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
According to the latest national statistics, there are currently fourteen thousand Belizean children infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS. However, to date, there are no national programs targeting this vulnerable population.

Anita Zetina, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Human Development
“Our main focus has been on children who come into our care for other reasons and then end up being affected or infected by HIV or AIDS. And so that has the extent of our intervention in that regard but we are seeing the need to do more.”

In an attempt to meet that need, today the Cornerstone Foundation, UNICEF and its partners invited primary students from the Belmopan area to witness the official launch of the Caring for Children Campaign.

Rita Defour, Manager, Cornerstone Foundation
“The campaign is to get donations from the business sector, from the churches and its’ the help children affected by HIV and AIDS. These donations will be given directly to these children.”

Janelle Chanona
“And it can be food...”

Rita Defour
“And it can be food, clothing, hygiene products, whatever.”

Anita Zetina
“Whatever we contribute will better the quality of life of children in our society. We cannot forget that the children are our future and that if we don’t take care of them we will probably have no future.”

Two years ago, UNICEF estimated that one in every twelve children were infected or affected by HIV but only a small percentage were receiving medical treatment and care. The organization is currently conducting a situation analysis to determine a more accurate number.

Rana Flowers, UNICEF
“Days like today are really there to highlight that in the overall HIV and AIDS picture in Belize, children are very neglected and we have a responsibility to ensure that we bring them neglect and that we really table what their concerns are and start addressing them seriously.”

According to UNICEF country representative, Rana Flowers, serious action requires urgent political support.

Rana Flowers
“What’s missing from the equation is the Government; is a government department that really coordinates and ensures a continuum of care for the children. We are seeing that develop in other countries and that’s what absolutely we will be working with the government to do in the coming period. So on the basis of what we find out from this situation analysis we will definitely be working with counterparts in government, counterparts in the non-governmental organizations to get a relay clear strategic plan for how we are going to do this and how we are going to ensure that children are no longer hidden from our response. It can’t be just a health response. It can’t be just the health department who gets to dart around children and then follows. It has to be a much wider community response because the issues that these children face are not just health.”

In the absence of a government program, a number of committees and community based organizations are reaching out to affected children and their families.

Dr. Mike Martinez, Belmopan AIDS Committee
“The struggle is on, it’s a’s not an easy thing and with children and something like this today they will be much more informed on where to go and what to do and how to treat others that are suffering with the disease.”

And this afternoon students participating in the launch were eager to share their perspectives on the deadly disease, the modes of transmission and the painful side effects of stigma and discrimination.

Natalie Cucul, Standard Six Student
“I know a person that is I think nine and she had a new born baby.”

Janelle Chanona
“Really? How did that make you feel?”

Natalie Cucul
“It neva mek I feel good but it happened so it already happened.

Janelle Chanona
“What you must do to make sure you don’t get in that situation?”

Natalie Cucul
“Well, what I must do is that I must ensure that I keep myself safe and I am not going to do that.”

Evan Melendez, Standard Six Student
“Use a condom.”

Janelle Chanona
“Use a condom?”

Evan Melendez
“Every time.”

Janelle Chanona
“You think people your age right now are having sex?”

“[All together] Yes miss. No miss.”

Jashar Price, Standard Six Student
“They affect other people weh no gat it.”

Edmund Pascascio, Standard Six Student
“When somebody have AIDS, miss, it show you how fi care fi them, miss, because when yu got AIDS too much people discriminate yu, miss.”

Janelle Chanona
“And how you think discrimination feel?”

Edmund Pascascio
“Miss I think that feel bad, miss, because that hurt yu feeling too, miss.”

Janelle Chanona
“So if you all found out that somebody was sick around you, how would you treat that person?”

Edmund Pascascio
“I would treat them as I treat myself, miss, equally.

Jerome Chun, Teacher, Garden City Primary School
“They have enough education at this point I believe to make the right choice.”

Janelle Chanona
“Are you surprised by the sexual behaviour that’s already being exhibited at this age?”

Jerome Chun
“Not at all surprised because if you look at children nowadays they’re exposed, they’re overexposed in a sense to so many things that is going around in this area so it’s very difficult for us to try to cover up such as issue as AIDS and how someone can become affected. If we can bring down the amount of exposure to these children then probably we can suppress but there’s no way, no how so I’m not all surprised.

Janelle Chanona
“But you are grateful that they are doing these sorts of things?”

Jerome Chun
“Definitely. I mean this is a start I believe and we as teachers and parents also have to become educated about this whole issue of HIV and we have to know how not to discriminate against these people living with HIV and they can learn from these people.”

The acceptance of donations towards the Caring for Children campaign will begin on World AIDS Day, December first, at drop off points across the country.

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.
ch 5:

Labour Ministry targets AIDS in the workplace
Children were not the only focus of activists today as an event in Belize City highlighted the impact of AIDS on the world of work. News Five’s Marion Ali has the story.

Marion Ali, Reporting
Today personnel from the Ministry of Labour held an open day in conjunction with World AIDS Week. The event was held to highlight the Ministry’s services as they pertain to H.I.V./AIDS in the workplace and was in collaboration with several other social partners. Minister of Labour, Francis Fonseca, said his Ministry and government recognize the critical nature of the threat of the disease and will have to take innovative measures to respond.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Labour
“Too many in our society still lack a proper understanding of the causes and effects of HIV/AIDS. This is why we must continue to be aggressive in expanding our coordinated response to achieving our ultimate goal of developing a sustainable national program on HIV/AIDS and the world of work that is fully integrated into the programmes of government and the other national partners. This will require further strengthening of capacity at the policy and operational levels, increasing the number of targeted enterprises, particularly in the tourism informal sectors, the agricultural sectors as well as improving programmes directed at counselling, testing, referrals, treatment, care and support.”

Two of the parties that took part in the day’s activities were the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and the Pan American Social Marketing Organization.

Chadrick Tingling, Public Relations Officer, PASMO
“We’re just here to assist and to help in the best way we can.”

Marion Ali
“What’s the message? You know Belize ranks amongst the highest within the Caribbean and Central America per capita of infected persons. How do you feel your input will make a significant change or help this to turn around?”

Chadrick Tingling
““We are all doing the same to help change the behaviour of others out there who keep thinking one negative way and we are trying to change them into a positive way to try to change the behaviour which they have by reducing the amount of sexual partners, by start using their protection and so forth.”

Dylan Reneau, General Secretary, N.T.U.C.B.
“Each of the unions within the National Trade Union Congress they have what is call focal points for HIV, point of contact person for HIV/AIDS. We have HIV/AIDS committees within the various unions. We do training for workers on HIV and AIDS. We produce educational material on HIV and AIDS. So we are also trying to sensitize at the same time trying to lessen discrimination and stigma on HIV and AIDS. That’s or basic message.”

Marion Ali
“Do you feel that people take heed to this message?”

Dylan Reneau
“Yes they do. Certainly it has to be repetitive to catch
but it has to be done.”

The Ministry also issued a “User friendly guide to implementing an H.I.V./AIDS policy in the workplace”. It’s available at labour offices countrywide.

Marion Ali, Reporting for News Five.
Ch 7:

The Foot Soldiers in the War Against HIV/Aids
posted (November 27, 2007)

Every week at least nine persons in Belize are diagnosed with HIV. Since the first case was confirmed in 1986, the number and rate of infections continue to rise. As of June this year, four thousand one hundred and thirty people are reported to have HIV and seven hundred and twenty four have died as a result of aids. The fight against HIV and aids has been a challenge for all those involved. Today the Ministry of Health and the National Aids Commission took time out to pay respects to those who have given selflessly to the cause. But as we hear in this report from Channel 7’s Jacqueline Godwin it hasn’t been easy for those on the frontlines.

Jacqueline Godwin Reporting,
Remember Sarita? In 2005, she was the Aids patient left to die on the street from Aids related condition. Left to die because she had nowhere else to go. But it’s not only victims of Aids and HIV that suffer stigma and discrimination, there have also been personal attacks against the community and health workers who voluntarily promote awareness and give care and treatment to the sick. Like thirty five year old Dangriga resident Norine Castillo who for the past four years has given emotional support for those affected and infected.

Norine Castillo, Community Worker
“But you meet all kinds of things on the street, all kind of stuff on the streets. People are like, anytime they see you, they say oh that is the Aids lady because for me, people think that I am HIV positive, they tell you plain when they see you coming they say oh, look at she coming again, I don’t want to see her.”

Today Norine and thirteen other persons were recognized for their significant contribution to the fight against HIV and Aids.

Margaret Ventura, CEO - Ministry of Health
“It is only through advocacy, through educating the general population, and encouraging them to guard against HIV/Aids that we will together reduce the number of infected persons in our beautiful country and ensure that we do our best to preserve the next generation. If we don’t redouble our efforts then we will be seeing a continuously alarming number of persons affected by HIV/Aids and sadly we, will see the future leaders of our country falling one by one. We certainly do not want that. We are all here together committed to this fight against HIV and Aids.”

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Executive Chairwoman – National Aids Commission
“I think it is fitting that we should pause to big up and to let everybody know who has been there in the fight working for all the needs of people living with HIV, not only making sure they are on their medication making sure that they have something eat; involving the communities, involving the church in linking the services to the people who needed them. The people who are on the front line actually getting the job done. We have recognized some of them today, maybe not everybody but we want to do this annually.”

Norine Castillo,
“Now its like everybody see me and its like oh miss Norine can I please get a pamphlet , can I please get a condom or Miss Norine this or Miss Norine that.”

On December first, World Aids Day will be observed. On that day Belizeans are being encouraged to come out, be tested and know their status. It is the hope that as more people get involved then we will start to see a reduction in the number of infections.

But it is not only concerned individuals and health professionals who were recognized. The business community as well has come onboard. The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry will spearhead a business coalition that will significantly impact the national response. BCCI’s President Emile Mena explains why businesses in Belize should pay attention to HIV and Aids.

Emile Mena, President - BCCI
“HIV infections occur mostly in the working age population between 15 and 49 years old. The majority of new cases in Belize are between 15 to 24 and 30 to 39 which is our current and future workforce. We have the highest incidents per capita in Central America and we are the third highest in the Caribbean.”

Today twenty one of BCCI’s members signed on to be a part of the first Belize Business Coalition against HIV and Aids. For 7NEWS, Jacqueline Godwin.

The National Aids Commission also launched its website today. Click here to visit it. The theme for this year’s World Aids Day is ‘Youth, take the lead.’