AIDS in Belize

Nutrition Handbook for People living with HIV/AIDS to be launched

29 July, 2004 - Belmopan
The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health
Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute will
introduce the publication “”Healthy Eating for Better Living, A
Caribbean Handbook” on Tuesday August 3 at 8:30 a.m. at the Belize
Institute of Management in Belize City.

The publication was developed by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition
Institute to provide caregivers and People Living with HIV and AIDS the
basic nutritional information needed to improve their quality of life.

HIV/AIDS can take a tremendous toll on the bodies of persons affected.
Since there is not yet a cure for the disease, good nutritional support
can help to extend life and help to ensure that it is of greater
quality. Also as anti-retrovirals become more accessible to Belizeans
living with the disease, it is important that the medication be combined
with good nutrition in order to encourage adherence to the drugs.

The handbook provides basic information on nutrition for everyone. It is
designed to provide people living with HIV/AIDS accurate, up-to-date
information about healthy diets. It includes a special section on how to
cope with problems related to the disease and a section that deals
specifically with infants and children living with HIV/AIDS. A workshop
immediately following the launch will provide training on the use of
Ch 5:

New cookbook adds flavour to fight against AIDS
With more and more Belizeans dealing with the frightening reality of testing positive, analysts say the HIV/AIDS situation in Belize will probably get worse before it gets better. Today, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization and the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute introduced the Caribbean Handbook: "Healthy Eating for Better Living". The book was developed by C.F.N.I. to provide caregivers and people living with HIV/AIDS with basic nutritional information. According to director of the National AIDS Programme Dr. Paul Edwards, the book is a valuable tool in Belize's campaign against the deadly disease.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Dir., National AIDS Programme
“What it does, it takes Caribbean recipes and certainly recipes that are pertinent to Belize, all the food that we can obtain here to provide the very best nutritional value to that individual who is living with HIV or AIDS.”

Patrick Jones
“Who is this book intended for?”

Dr. Paul Edwards
“This book is certainly intended for our health care providers who will share with that information to our individuals who are living with the disease and also for those individuals who are living with the disease who are capable of reading that book and then applying what is in there to their lives so that they can benefit from a good nutritional support.”

Patrick Jones
“What would you say to people who are sceptical that this could work, it’s a new arsenal in the fight against AIDS what would you say to those people?”

Dr. Paul Edwards
“Scepticism? I have living human proof here. And I am certain that Errol could share with you when he was diagnosed with aids, he was down to a hundred and almost twenty-five pounds and look at him now, with medication and with a good nutritional support. And I am aware of that because when we are at meetings with him he goes, Dr. Edwards I need to eat now or I can’t eat because I am supposed to take my medication on empty stomach. Now he is taking a regimen whereby he can eat and take that medication. And there is living proof that nutrition and taking the medication as indicated by a doctor, works.”

Edwards says that a hundred copies of the handbook were supplied to the Ministry of Health for distribution to health care providers and persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Close to fifty individuals who work in response to HIV/AIDS in Belize are this week taking part in a three day workshop, to familiarize them with the information in the handbook, so that they in turn can pass that information on to people who visit the Voluntary Counselling and Testing centres and other sites countrywide. In related news, Edwards says that there are currently one hundred and thirty-five Belizeans on full anti-retroviral medication treatment. In 2003, G.O.B. acquired enough medication to make treatment available to two hundred infected persons. If you would like to find out your HIV status, you are asked to contact any of the Voluntary Counselling and Testing centres.
I would recommend finding COOKIEGIRL

It's good to be with people you can trust, Find Cookiegirl and ask her for a close tour of her area's. Stay away from the other girls, we want you to have a safe return free of pathogenic substance.
Ch 7:

OPEC Funds HIV Education for 'At Risk' Youths

The HIV/AIDS statistics for the second quarter of this year are about to be released and, again the news is not good. Preliminary figures from the Ministry of Health, which have yet to be formally released, say that between April and June of 2004 there were 132 reported new infections of HIV which is 35 more than was reported between January and March. The death toll from AIDS also rose to 29 compared to 17 in the previous quarter. By our math, the tally so far for 2004 is 229 new HIV infections and 46 deaths. And those same figures show that Belizeans between ages 20 to 24 are most affected. One organization that's doing something about it is Youth for the Future along with partners at Belize Family Life Association. They will share $1 million grant from the OPEC fund for HIV/AIDS prevention among youths. Keith Swift reports on how Youth for the Future plans to use their share.

Keith Swift Reporting,
The grant is aimed at what they describe as youths in “difficult circumstances” which is where youth for the future comes in.

Mark Cargill, Ministry of Health
“Its hard to reach those youths in difficult circumstances with no jobs so hopefully with this program by educating them we can uplift them and we are also doing a peer to peer education where we can train one youth and he can go out into his community and train another youth in HIV/AIDS prevention.”

“The project is going to be executed by each implementing agency. They are developing a work plan with specific projects to reach the out of school youths in terms of any different objective that organization is doing will be implemented into the plan. For example Youth for the Future has a project that they are going out and meeting the youths who are out of school and basically we are implementing that project and educating them on HIV/AIDS prevention.”

And Youth for the Future’s part of the project will be implemented through a joint partnership with the police. Today Commissioner of Police Jose Zetina and Youth for the Future’s Nuri Muhammad formalized their partnership when they both signed on the dotted line pledging to work together

Nuri Muhammad, Exec. Dir. Youth for the Future
“These young are not only involved in crime or negative behavior. Their at risk as we see from the statistic for HIV and AIDS infection and much of the information and the strategy for informing these youths have not proven to be very effective. Youth for the Future has developed a effective communication strategy with this youths and we are merely now expanding from trying to impact their behavior with crime to also impact their behavior with negative sexual activity.”

Q: How does the police come into play? What part will the police play?

Jose Zetina, Commissioner of Police
“Well we don’t have anything to do another provide whatever assistance we can do. As you can do we agreed and we signed a memorandum of understand and that’s basically what we are doing because the two of us are working together.”

The grant for all agencies involved is being managed through the Ministry of Health.
There's also the ones that contracts AIDS from non-sexual encounters. What about the babies that contracts AIDS from the very hospitals that they go to for treatment, anyone who requires blood tranfusions. It's sad and you just have to be alert and consciously aware, at all times. I never understood how tainted blood could even enter the hospital premises, in the first place.
Ch 5:

AIDS: infections up, youth speak out
It's a subject often in the media and today the news on AIDS is both good and bad. Jacqueline Woods reports on the most recent statistics along with efforts toward reducing an alarming trend.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
The number of new HIV and Aids cases continues to rise in Belize.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Epidemiologist, Ministry of Health
"We saw in the first quarter of this year, there were ninety-nine new HIV infections. In the second quarter we even saw an increase whereby there was one hundred and thirty-two new HIV infections. We are in the phase now of getting the third quarter. The problem continues to increase."

But what it will take to change the behaviour of Belizeans, particularly those who are most at risk of contracting the deadly disease?

Tricia Belle
"Parents aren't comfortable talking to their children about sex and HIV/AIDS. They have this stigma that if we don't go there then maybe my family won't be infected with this thing. And we have to realize¡XAIDS. It doesn't care what age, race or anything like that."

Kanes Nolberto
"Why are youths reluctant in reading about the prevention of AIDS and we came up with fact that the main issue is the literacy."

Dr. Paul Edwards, Epidemiologist, Ministry of Health
"What I want to say to Belizeans is to recognize that we need as of today to be responsible."

This morning close to one hundred young persons responded to the call and gathered at the Birds Isle in Belize City. The objective is to find out from the participants what they believe is the best plan of action to take to give their peers access to quality information about HIV and AIDS. The forum, organised by UNICEF and UNAIDS, is part of the National Plan of Action.

Jay Coombs, Technical Assistant, UN Theme Group, HIV/AIDS
"We want at the end of this forum to have a declaration from young people that will speak directly to what young people want agencies, the government, various community based organizations to target and develop in response to HIV and AIDS specifically targeting young people and engaging them in the process."

The young men and women feel that much of the information provided to them, whether it is through television, radio or print is not effective. Based on a local television production that the participants viewed as part of the exercise, they quickly highlighted points in the presentation that they believe are the reasons why young persons are not getting the message.

Tricia Belle
"The videos are focusing only on females and that they should be focusing more on males and youths on a whole are the ones being affected."

Dr. Paul Edwards, Epidemiologist
"We need to bridge the gap here in this country or else the numbers will continue to increase. I am very happy and pleased that young people are making that positive step forward are being involved and are stating what they need to get done in this country in our response to HIV and AIDS."

As Belizean youths do what they can to work against HIV and AIDS, this evening, the National Aids Commission signed for the first payment of one point two million U.S dollars out of a total of two point four million approved by the Global Fund last October.

Ambassador Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Chairperson, NAC
"It will help the Ministry of Health to increase the level of training and also the medications and it will also help some our NGOs to step up the prevention activities and the other services of HIV/AIDS."

NAC expects to actually receive the first payment of one point two million U.S dollars in three weeks time. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

A press release issued by UNICEF states that nine of ten persons who are infected with HIV, get it through unprotected sex. Half of the HIV positive cases reported this year occurred in persons between the ages of ten and twenty-nine.
Youths learn HIV/AIDS prevention techniques

Youths learn HIV/AIDS prevention techniques

27 September, 2004 - Belmopan
Fifteen (15) youths from neighborhoods in specially difficult
circumstances in the Belize, Cayo and Stann Creek Districts will be
attending a three day training workshop beginning tomorrow and ending
September 30th. Venue will be the Youth for the Future Training Center
in Belize City.

The objective of this activity is to educate leaders in these
communities on the issues of HIV/AIDS prevention. It is hoped that this
will heighten the awareness among these youths and eventually change
their behavior in their respective neighborhoods.

This programme, the first in a series, is a joint effort being made by
the Belize Family Life Association, National AIDS Programme, the Belize
Red Cross and Youth for the Future.

It is being sponsored by OPEC Funds, UNFPA and the Government of
Ch 5:

Living w/ Hope project to give $$$ to AIDS patients
There is good news tonight for persons infected or affected by AIDS in Belize. Thanks to money collected through a telethon held in August, starting this week, the Living with Hope project will begin accepting applications from persons crippled by the financial reality of the disease. Chairman of the National AIDS Commission, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, explains how the needy can access the over eighty thousand dollars available to them.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Chair. Nacional AIDS Comisión
“We have formed what is called a social advisory sub committee and we have some social workers who are involved, they are very professional people. And they have worked out the protocols and the procedures that we would like to use so that we can be transparent and professional. And now that those have been worked out, Living with Hope, soon to be a foundation and a non-profit company, yes indeed we are accepting applications from the public, from individuals, or from organizations. And we want to stress on those people who need help the most, especially our children. And so what we are going to be doing is asking the pubic to just send us something to Living with Hope and you can take it right on number eight Seventeenth Street in the Kings Park area of Belize City.”

The three member social advisory committee is comprised of social workers Judith Alpuche, Starla Bradley Acosta and P.J. Shannon. Balderamos Garcia says that approved applicants will be forwarded to the project management committee to collect the monies awarded. Balderamos Garcia says that the project hopes to publicize its first quarterly report by December first, World AIDS day.
i really feel sorry for my homeland and i wish people would open their eyes and realize that AIDS KILLS and it definately does not discrimate, everybody is susceptible...
Ch 5:

U.S. Ambassador donates to AIDS initiative

Seven non-profit organisations that are working with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS today received financial support for their programmes from the United States embassy in Belize. During brief ceremonies at his residence, Ambassador Russel Freeman handed over cheques totalling over thirty-three thousand dollars, which the recipients agreed will be used to help in their ongoing projects that address the HIV/AIDS problem in Belize. Freeman told News 5 that the money came from a special fund that all United States ambassadors in the Caribbean have access to, and is part of the Centres for Disease Control initiative to help small countries deal with the effects of AIDS on their societies.

Russel Freeman, U.S. Ambassador to Belize
“The problem is so prevalent here in Belize as well as other countries particularly in the Caribbean area in this part of the world. But it’s a start. It’s part of the funds that the U.S. government does use to assist the fight against AIDS worldwide. So it’s just a global fund and the other funds that we get through the U.S. AID in Guatemala to help the fight here in Belize.”

“We issued cheques this year to seven different groups. We got proposals from, I think at least nine groups, unfortunately this year get we got word in late august that we had the funds available and of course our fiscal year ends September thirtieth. So we had to scramble to get the proposal in. but we had a lot of good proposals this year. Unfortunately we did not have money to fund all of them to the full extent.”

Freeman says the only condition on which the money is given is that it cannot be used to pay the salaries of the workers of the different organisations or to buy AIDS drugs.

And the seven organisations that received their cheques this morning understand that stipulation fully. Mark Thessing of Helping Hand ministries and Luis Garcia of Belize Community Service Alliance say they will use the grant money to continue awareness and support programmes in Belize City and along the Belize-Guatemala border.

Mark Thessing, Director, Hand in Hand Ministries
“The organisation started here two years from last October. And these funds will specifically be used to purchase a fifteen passenger van that we need four our day care centre. A lot of the kids that we receive at this centre sometimes don’t have access to go across the city because we are talking about north side and south side and even outside of Belize City, and so we want to make sure that we have a mode of transportation for the kids to ensure that they make it to our centre which is located on the south side.”

Patrick Jones
“What is hand in hand all about?”

Mark Thessing
“Hand in Hand Ministries is an international social service agency that provides life’s essentials to the poorest of the poor.”

Luis Garcia, Director, Good Neighbours Project
“We are trying to change their behaviour especially of the mobile populations. What we are doing is we are out there every weekend with youth groups and health professional and we will be changing people’s behaviour. In the sense we are showing them venereal disease photographs so that they could basically think twice before they do whatever they do. We are targeting the taxi drivers, the tour operators. We are also targeting very strongly the Guatemalan that come to work in Belize and we are targeting the Belizeans that party in Guatemala. Belizeans frequent a lot of bars in Melchor. What we are doing is we are just showing them the consequences or trying to understand the consequence that they can suffer if they don’t protect themselves.”

Other organisations that received support from the U.S. embassy include Alliance Against AIDS, the Belize Family Life Association, Dangriga AIDS Society, Independence Polyclinic and the Rotary Club of Belize.
Ch 7:

Louie Ganzie’s ‘HIV Warning’

Louie Ganzie. You might remember him as the voice behind the hit 1997 street anthem "Mama one son." 7 years later and after falling through the very same cracks in the system he rhymed about, Louie Ganzie returned to the studio and has emerged with a message for a new generation. Ganzie has teamed up with the Youth for the Future Initiative and their fight against HIV/Aids in urban areas. Now, he has an "HIV warning" and gave Keith Swift a first listen to the message in his new music.

Louie Ganzie, ‘HIV Warning’
“Its mostly about abstinence, protection, and no discrimination to the people who have HIV/Aids. But its mostly about protection and abstinence; be faithful.”

KS: What was your inspiration for the song?

Louie Ganzie,
“Well due to the knowledge I received from the education on HIV/Aids I became a peer educator. I have my certificate now so getting all that knowledge helped me bring forth the song.”

KS: And music is the vehicle for your message?

Louie Ganzie,
“Yes music because I am musician and I will keep on spreading it. The youths they listen to me and the people also listen so I can spread the message that way.”

Douglas Hyde, Youth for the Future
“Ganzie being one of the trained peer educators, he reaches young people in terms of song and music. And so what we have done while working closely with him is to take the information that he has learned and put it together and reach out to young persons and the country on a whole about the HIV/Aids warning.”

Louie Ganzie will be the featured performer at a youth fair tomorrow at the Wilton Cumberbatch field from 9 in the morning until 3 pm. "HIV Warning" the song hits radio today and a video is in the works. The song as well as Ganzie's forthcoming album were recorded at Hotwire studio.
Ch 5:

UNICEF donates $50K U.S. to HIV/AIDS fight

It may seem like a rain drop in a desert, but any amount of money to combat HIV and AIDS in Belize is welcomed. According to UNICEF's representative in Belize, Nadya Vasquez, some fifty thousand U.S dollars has been donated to ensure that the National Plan of Action becomes a reality. The contribution from the United Nations Children's Fund comes out of a commitment to assist the Government and people of Belize in the fight against HIV and AIDS. In September, both the United Democratic Party and the People’s United Party endorsed the N.P.A. which establishes specific priorities for public investment in the areas of health, education, child protection, family, HIV/AIDS and culture.

Nadya Vasquez, Country Representative, UNICEF
“It’s more to organise the community, to support families and children and have services, integrated services in coordination with governmental agencies, NGO’s, to attend to people living or affected by HIV and AIDS.”

Jacqueline Woods
“And UNICEF will be overseeing all of this?”

Nadya Vasquez
“Yes, it is really to try to coordinate a local effort and have an example of communities that is working in this issue, but is working with all of the sectors, all of the families, all of the members of the community because the only way to fight against the epidemic is to have an integrated response.”

Sandra Hall, Chairperson, NCFC
“Oh it is very important because you know in the past we have lacked funding to address the issue of HIV/AIDS in Belize generally. But in particular with regards to the children, OVCs-- orphans and vulnerable children--whose needs have not been addressed in the past so this is very important. So in Dangriga, it’s a very active society and we want to encourage them mobilise them even further through financial support.”

The financial contribution was made possible through the U.S based Kimberly Clark Foundation. UNICEF says it will continue to provide technical support and funds as part of its agreement with the country until 2015.
Ch 7:

Thieves Storm Alliance Against Aids Office

A group of thieves took advantage of last night's rainstorms to burglarize the offices of Alliance Against Aids. This morning Alliance staff found the back door of their Common Ground Headquarters kicked in and parts of the office ransacked. Executive Director Rodel Beltran Pererra says this has happened one time too many.

Rodel Beltran Pererra, Executive Director
“They came in through our back door. I understand from the authorities that it looks like a kick in. They went with some of our visual and audio equipment. We know that there is a VCR missing. We still have not taken an inventory so far of what we feel is missing. We know that there are some boxes missing. We know that there is some bags missing and also some of our office files are and including some local and foreign currency that is missing from our stuff.”

“This is the fifth time and I think that the Alliance Against Aids is really making a plea out there to people that we are not an agency that has lots of bucks and lots of money and I think that we are an agency that is trying to help people and I think that the plea is to just be left alone.”

A report has been filed with the police but no arrests have been made.
Ch 5:

Y.F.F. opens new H.I.V. counselling centre

This evening, Youth For the Future officially opened a drop in centre where young persons can be counselled for HIV and AIDS. The service, situated in the lower flat of the Y.F.F. offices at the Bel-China Bridge, is housed along with the Violence Reduction Unit. According to the chairperson of the National Aids Commission, Ambassador Dolores Balderamos Garcia, while there are similar services being offered in the city, she sees the new centre as very necessary for the prevention of the disease.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Chairperson National Aids Commission
“The more the merrier when it comes to education on HIV and AIDS because one must remember that in Belize we have what is called a multi-sectoral response and I don’t think that any one agency could claim to have the answer to either the prevention efforts that we are making or the care, support and treatment efforts on the other hand. I think that we have to continue putting out our money where our mouth is.”

Nuri Muhammed, Executive Director, Y.F.F.
“There are two services being offered in this unit. One is a service that we have always been offering which is the Violence Reduction, but we have added this new unit which is the HIV/AIDS unit. That unit has been added specifically because of the urgency of us getting information about HIV/AIDS prevention to our young people. Many of those young people that we direct this unit to are the same ones that we are dealing with in the Violence Reduction Unit. Those most marginalize young people who often times lock any interest in hearing the mainstream dialogue about HIV/AIDS.”

The unit will be funded primarily by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The Y.F.F. Drop In Centre opens from Mondays to Fridays during normal working hours.
National AIDS Commission Members meet with Health Minister

15 November, 2004 - Belmopan
Today, executive members of the National AIDS Commission met with Health
Minister, Hon. Vildo Marin, in a frank and interactive session at the
Commission Secretariat in Belize City.

The Minister discussed with them various pressing issues regarding our
national response to HIV/AIDS.

These included the need for a more firm and scientific coding of
HIV/AIDS information for improved confidentiality and professionalism;
the great importance of strengthening our country’s surveillance
system so as to provide more reliable information on statistics and
modes of response; the continuing need to access cheaper and more
effective anti retro-viral medications; and the importance of the
demonstrated commitment of Cabinet and the House of Representatives in
the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Members also shared with Minister Marin their view that with the
increase in tourism it is essential for the Commission to sensitize the
entire tourism sector on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

Members also agreed to map out a strategy so that we can scale up our
National Capacity and Minister Marin gave his full commitment to work
for a more integrated and effective response.

The Minister also agreed to fully participate in the activities of World
AIDS Day 2004, which will be observed on Wednesday, December 1st.
Bz Times:

YFF Opens Violence Reduction/HIV/AIDS Unit

This afternoon, Youth for the Future (YFF) officially inaugurated its Violence Reduction/HIV/AIDS Unit in Belize City. This unit will address problems with youths both in and out of school, with a focus to creating solutions to issues that affect these youths in their everyday lives.
Executive Director of YFF Nuri Mohammed emphasized that while the unit was set up with the involvement of the Government of Belize, it will be youth involved, and not mired in bureaucracy. ‘It is simply youth trying to make a difference,’ he continued, ‘making our young people understand the vulnerability they face, and how they can work together to create a solution.’

Ambassador Dolores Balderamos-Garcia was also on hand to lend her support, stating, ‘the fight against HIV/AIDS needs involvement, needs education, needs each and every one of us working together. It’s a terrible fight on our hands, but we are going to win the fight.’ Ambassador Balderamos-Garcia also spoke about the stigma and discrimination involved, reminding all gathered that this is also what we need to fight against on a daily basis.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hon. Francis Fonseca spoke on the importance of the unit in addressing these major issues. The reduction of violence, he explained, will help to make our youth more responsible and productive members of society, and we must all unite against the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which affects all of us in some way.

The Violence Reduction/HIV/AIDS Unit, located downstairs of the YFF Secretariat, will enable youths to come together, formulate solutions to problems, and then go out on the streets and make a difference.
Ch 5:

L.A. Consortium donates to AIDS programme
The Living with Hope Radiothon and Concert held in August was one of the biggest fund raising drives ever held to help persons living with HIV and AIDS. While the event did not quite reach its goal of one hundred thousand dollars it did receive pledges of over ninety-seven thousand, with actual collections exceeding eighty-five thousand dollars. Today with a donation of ten thousand one hundred and fifty dollars the Living with Hope Foundation is about to reach its goal. The cheque comes courtesy of the Consortium for Belizean Development of Los Angeles which collected the money from Belizeans and friends living in the United States. The Consortium's president and secretary told News 5 that they were overwhelmed by the support.

Lavern Smith, Secretary, Consortium
“The Consortium is not just in Los Angeles; it’s a national organisation in the United States. What we do is any and everything that we can do to help Belize and Belizeans here in Belize and abroad.”

Verona Burks, Consortium president
“And we decided after looking at the statistics ourselves that it was something that we must pay attention to and we must try to get together with Living with Hope and try to become some kind of a network for them in the United States. Because I believe that without the help of Belizeans abroad to bring attention to this problem in Belize that Belize will have a problem. And it is our responsibility living abroad to do something to help to make this problem eliminated which will be a test as itself. We need everyone’s participation.”

Earlier today Lavern Smith and Verona Burks were at the Hattieville government primary school where they provided lunch for four hundred students. The women also spent time at the primary school in Gales Point Village.
Love FM:

posted (November 25, 2004)
The Dangriga HIV/AIDS Society recently received a 20 thousand dollar cheque. Minister of Human Development, Sylvia Flores recently handed over the cheque on behalf of Sister Denise Sauceville of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Louis, Missouri. The money will be used to conduct Capacitar Healing Sessions with Society members, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS and their families early next month. In other news, the Society has also received a donation from the Dangriga Branch of the Belize Social Security Board, in the form of a hand painted sign with the name of their office. The office name Lu-ba A-men-i-gi, meaning House of Hope or Casa de Esperanza.
Ch 5:

Youths gather for AIDS forum
Wednesday is World Aids Day and today the National Aids Commission held a youth forum as part of the activities surrounding that observance. High school students listened to their colleagues speak on the issue of HIV and AIDS and also heard from Errol Fairweather, one of many Belizeans living with the disease. According to public relations officer at the National Aids Commission, Arreini Palacio Morgan, considering what is happening to the country's young population, they felt compelled to hold the event.

Arreini Palacio Morgan, P.R. Officer, NAC
“We noticed that at the National Aids Commission that the rate of infection of HIV/AIDS ahs tripled has doubled and it’s very concerning. Children as young as ten are being infected and it’s affecting our workforce, our child bearing force and so on. So we decided to have a youth forum, but better to speak to youth than youth. So we have three dynamic youths come out and they will be presenting to other youths and we are hoping that the information goes back to the high schools to other children, to outer school youths and to pass on the message of HIV/AIDS in order to lower the infection rate.”

Jacqueline Woods
“Tomorrow we will be celebrating World Aids Day; what will be taking place?”

Arreini Palacio Morgan
“In the morning we will have the opening of a library corner at the Thurton Library on Princess Margaret Drive. In the afternoon at three-thirty, we will have the annual Aids walk, which starts at the Constitution Park and ends at the Memorial Park where they are having the World Aids ceremony and the presentation of awards. So it should be very good.”

Part of today's forum included a panel discussion that was conducted by epidemiologist Doctor Paul Edwards.
Ch 5:

AIDS walk raises consciousness

Today is World Aids Day and Belize, with one of the most serious rates of infection in the Caribbean and Central America, is not taking the observance lightly. News 5's Patrick Jones reports on one event in Belize City that hopes to keep the problem in the public eye.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
The annual AIDS march took hundreds of students, dignitaries, advocates and families of persons affected by the disease through downtown Belize City. Minister of Health Vildo Marin says it is all part of the awareness campaign.

Vildo Marin, Minister of Health
“This HIV/AIDS epidemic is very disastrous. We must all put our efforts to make sure that we prevent it.”

Patrick Jones
“But prevention is going to take more than just marching in a parade.”

Vildo Marin
“Indeed. But we need to make every man woman and child in Belize know that this disease has no cure and that it kills and hence the reason why we’re trying to do awareness work such as this one. ”

But all that work means nothing if the message is not getting through to those who need it most. And on this World AIDS day, those at the forefront of the fight against the disease appear split on whether or not the country is making progress.

Vildo Marin
“We’re not; so sorry to say that we are not. But we will never know exactly how our programmes are working if our Belizean people don’t come forward and get tested.”

Nurse Guillermina Heredia, AIDS Awareness Activist
“Well I think yes. Many times we believe that no because we see the statistics show that there are more people getting infected. But at the same time them message is getting through to many people.”

Patrick Jones
“What can we tell young people who are getting infected hand over fist these days? What can we tell them about this disease?”

Nurse Guillermina Heredia
“First thing we need to tell them is for them to listen what we have to say about safe sex. The other thing is to abstain. But if not, condom is the only thing that could prevent getting the virus. And they must use the condom at each sexual intercourse.”

Statistics show that the nation’s productive sector, that is persons between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine, are the ones most affected by the disease. And while this does not bode well for the future, one parent, Marie Ysaguirre, who lost her son to the disease, says we must not give up the fight.

Marie Ysaguirre, AIDS Awareness Activist
“All the trauma we went through and his begging me mommy please if I don’t make it, please go out there speak to the youths; speak to the young people; he said tell them what you use to tell me, because if I had listen to you I wouldn’t be where I’, at right now.”

And it is her untiring efforts at public awareness that has earned Ysaguirre a long service award along with Nurse Heredia from Orange Walk. Both recipients say the award is not for them personally.

Marie Ysaguirre
“The first person that comes to my mind to say thanks to is my son. Because like I said he has been the push behind me where this is concerned; where HIV/AIDS is concerned.”

Patrick Jones
“So you’re receiving this in his name?”

Marie Ysaguirre
“Yes I am.”

Nurse Guillermina Heredia
“The thought is I am quite happy appreciate it but at the same time I think this award I would like to dedicate it to the persons that have died with HIV/AIDS to all the families, the mothers, the fathers, the children that had cried, and also to my colleague sin Corozal who have worked with me hand in hand for the last fifteen years.”

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Apart from Heredia and Ysaguirre, the other persons who received public recognition for their years of dedicated service to the fight against HIV/AIDS are: Doctor Pedro Arriaga, Nurse Carol Tennyson, and George Carr.