AIDS in Belize

Ch 5:

Rotary helps AIDS awareness

Several organisations that work with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS are this week receiving assistance from the Rotary Club of Belize to continue their community awareness programmes. One such group is Alliance Against AIDS which was presented with a copy of the movie "Risking It All," which AAA's Executive Director Rodel Beltran Perera says will be used in the resource centre. According to Community Service Director for the Belize City Rotary Club Michael Kelly, the donation is part of the organisation's effort to assist in raising HIV/AIDS awareness.

Michael Kelly Belize City Rotary Club
“Rotary International is committed to AIDS awareness programmes. And part of that started last year in Belize when we made a movie called “Risking It All” which highlights the dangers of AIDS in the community. This movie was made by Belizeans, written by Belizeans, Belizean actors, etc. and so it shows the Belizean community at large. We’ve also presented audio visual equipment to the AIDS committees of P.G. and Orange Walk, who didn’t have this equipment, with a copy of the movie so that they can show it to various people in their community, take the equipment out to the villages and also show the people in the villages the movie and heighten their awareness of AIDS.”

Rodel Beltran Perera, Executive Director, AAA
“We are going to be able to reach persons that we have not been able to so far in certain interventions. We are doing workshops, we’re doing seminars, and we’re doing publicity. But I think now being equipped with this movie we are going to reach audiences that we have not been able to before and we are very pleased with that.”

Similar presentations will be made to each of the District AIDS committees.
Leo Bradley Library Dedicates Corner to HIV/Aids

It may sound simple enough but today on world's aid day, the message is still that education is the to key to prevention. And what better place for education and information than at a library - which is why the Leo Bradley Library this week set up an HIV/Aids corner. Librarian Glenford Barerra says the HIV/Aids corner is both informative and educational.

Glenford Barerra, Leo Bradley Library
"We at the library promote education and information and given the fact that we have 200 students per day that come in to use the library, we think that is a good idea to promote such things within the library service so that they can come in and they can gather information and just brows, take pictures, we have pamphlets and brochures that they can have to read and carry home. And as I said before a lot of kids come up in here and most of the time we have reading sessions with the kids and we can just bring them up in here, sit, and explain everything to them."

Ambassador Dolores Balderamos Garcia, National Aids Commission
"It might be a little bit more difficult to get children to pick up a book with no pictures and to read the whole thing. But if they get an experience of coming from their school over to the library, they are already in a setting where you have books around you, you have information, and there is a while atmosphere of learning to actually have them come and view the display and see what is here. I think it will be very good."

The Aids corner which is on the second floor of the Leo Bradley Library was put up with help from the Belize Family Life Association and National Aids Commission.
Ch 5:

Teens learn consequences of behaviour

The week set aside to focus on the AIDS pandemic may be coming to an end, but efforts to combat the disease remain in high gear. Patrick Jones reports from the Belize City Centre.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
With statistics showing a worrying trend in HIV infections, the Pan American Social Marketing Organization is engaging the nation’s young people in taking a hard look at their behaviour. Media Coordinator for PASMO Hayden Hawry says the hope is that the group hardest hit by the disease will be the one to turn the tables on AIDS.

Hayden Hawry, Media Coordinator, PASMO
“Overall the purpose of this is to create as much impact as we can with as many young women and girls in Belize as possible to raise awareness of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, which are affecting young girls more than any other group in Belize. We see young girls between the ages of fifteen to twenty, especially the high school age, where we are seeing the most amounts of new infections in 2004.”

The forum gave participants a chance to take part in interactive games that teach basic facts about the disease. One activity utilized a chemical process that helped to drive home the message of how easy it is to be exposed to HIV and that the only way to be sure of your status is to get tested.

Tanjay Martinez, Second Form Student, St. Michael’s College
“HIV doesn’t have any face, if you know somebody that have HIV, don’t discriminate them because HIV doesn’t tell whether you will get it, it doesn’t have a partner.”

“The experiment that I took part in show how easily and quickly you can catch AIDS. It only shows when you get tested.”

Patrick Jones
“Knowing now how easy it is to be exposed to HIV, how do you share this information with other young people?”

Tanjay Martinez
“Well my way to share with young people is to stay abstain or don’t take a risk.”

Andrew Tzul, Third Form Student, St. Michael’s College
“ I learned that AIDS is a very easy thing to catch because in the experiment that they did a while ago, in all the cups everyone had tap water and one person had vinegar. And when they poured the water in my cup, I didn’t know what it was at first. But when I started asking questions to others if their water smelt like vinegar all of them said no but then I knew that my water was going to turn red. So when they poured it in mine, I knew I was infected at the moment.”

Patrick Jones
“Now having learned how easy it is to be exposed to HIV/AIDS, how are you going to protect yourself?”

Andrew Tzul
“First you protect yourself by having a faithful partner or using abstinence or condoms or don’t have sex at all. Wait till you are married, have your partner and be careful in your life.”

Hayden Hawry
“The main message that we want to communicate to young girls today is to abstain from sex until you are sure that your partner is HIV negative or at least you know the status and you can talk about it with your partner. Abstain from sex until they know all the possible repercussions consequences and responsibilities that that involves.”

If they are already sexually active --- and statistics indicate that boys and girls as young as thirteen are having sex --- the forum also spoke about condom use. None of the students at the City Centre this afternoon, however, were offered condoms by the organisers. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Organisers hope that today's activity will be replicated in other districts so that more high school students will be exposed to relevant information. The forum was supported by Alliance Against Aids, the National Aids Commission and Ministry of Health.
Was O.W. killing revenge for AIDS infection?

The plot thickens in the investigation into the weekend murder of Orange Walk merchant Ghanshayan Alamchandani. This morning police detained a suspect in the case, saying only that he was a man "close to the victim". At the same time information reaching News 5 indicates a possible motive that is nothing short of disturbing. Alamchandani, according to reliable sources, was HIV positive, having been infected with the AIDS virus in 1998. It is alleged that in the years following the diagnosis Alamchandani boasted that he would infect as many people as possible and continued to engage in unprotected sex with a wide range of women, including prostitutes and various girlfriends, both single and married. According to one theory being explored by police, Alamachandani's murder was an act of revenge by someone he had infected with HIV. That, according to investigators, would explain the extreme violence of ten stab wounds to the head and face, a sheet around the victim's neck and a pillow over his face.
Ch 5:

Labour officers help Anti-AIDS effort

It is estimated that over forty-two million people around the world are infected with HIV and AIDS and a whopping twenty six million of those living with the disease are workers between the ages of fifteen and forty nine years old. To respond to this global problem, the International Labour Organisation and the United States Department of labour have developed workplace education and prevention programmes in sixteen participating countries including Belize. This morning, the Belize Labour Department and ILO's HIV and AIDS Project coordinator Sheila Middleton donated several boxes of food and clothing to the Alliance Against Aids to help in that organisation's annual Christmas Drive. News 5's Jacqueline Woods has more.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
This year seventeen families and fourteen inmates infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS will receive a care basket, filled with a variety of canned foods and clothes for children and adults. According to the authorities, donations this time of year are especially important to their clientele.

Rodel Beltran Perera, Executive Director, AAA
“We are concerned about the elements every year. We know this is the time of the year when we start seeing cold fronts and it is very difficult for us to get warm clothes and just normal clothes not just for our clients in Belize City but in other areas where there are active AIDS committees. So this is extremely, extremely important that this year the drive does continue and does continue to help our clients that do not only need food but also clothing.”

Since 1998, the Alliance Against Aids has depended on the kind assistance of agencies to keep the Christmas Drive alive. This year, the ILO’s HIV and AIDS Workplace Education programme and the Belize Labour Department, pooled their resources to extend a helping hand.

Sheila Middleton, NPC, ILO HIV/AIDS Project
“We didn’t only want to show that the ILO project would be doing just education sessions, but we also wanted to allow people to become more aware that it is not only education that a person need, but also the care and support that persons living with and affected would need.”

“We sent out letters to all the government ministries as well as the companies we have a relationship with asking them to motivate their staff to bring in canned food and used clothing.”

Jacqueline Woods
“How will the items be distributed? “

Rodel Beltran Perera
“It’s going to go to a number of clients we have in Belize City. They are members of our support group, there are about seventeen of them, three families, families with children, young children. They are going to be recipients of this. This year there is a new grouping and the support group of both men and women in the KOLBE Foundation up in Hattieville prison will also be recipients of this.”

The donation includes nine boxes of food and twenty-four boxes of clothing and shoes. Meanwhile ILO’s National Project Coordinator, Sheila Middleton says because it is the working population that is getting infected, they will be focusing more on preventative initiatives.

Sheila Middleton
“We just completed a survey with the population we are working with and we will be developing a behaviour change communication strategy for each of the three sectors that we are working with next year; that’ the agricultural, tourism and the service sector.”

Middleton says to date, fourteen companies have agreed to participate in the prevention project. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

The companies participating in the ILO HIV and AIDS project will develop policies tailored to their individual workplace environments.
YFF Holds Workshop on HIV/AIDS

10 December, 2004 - Belize City
The Violence Reduction and HIV/AIDS Education Unit, Youth for the
Future, will be holding a four-day workshop with staff members from the
National Youth Cadet Services Corps, National 4-H and Youth Development
Center and Youth Empowerment Coordinators from Belize City, Stann Creek
and Cayo Districts.

The objectives of the workshop are:

· To increase knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS and factors giving
rise to the epidemic in Belize,
· Increase understanding of the epidemic and how it affects young
· Improve ability to communicate appropriately and effectively with
young people who are infected by HIV, and
· Increase knowledge of the organizations in Belize that offer
comprehensive support to people who live with HIV so as to make
appropriate referral for young people.

The training will run from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on December 9-10 and
13-14, 2004. This workshop was funded through the collaborated efforts
of OPEC Fund, UNFPA and the Ministry of Health.
Ch 7:

Draft of National HIV/Aids Policy Discussed

HIV/Aids, it is now the 4th leading cause of death for Belizeans and while there is no one solution to tackling the problem, Belize will soon have a national policy on HIV/Aids which promises to take on all facets of the disease from the medical to the legal. Today the national aids commission took the draft of the policy to stakeholders in Belize City to get feedback before sending it to Belmopan. Ambassador Dolores Balderamos-Garcia says that while the law can't stop the spread of HIV and Aids, it can certainly help.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia,
"The main points in the policy, as we hope to provide it to government, is a human rights approach or what you call a rights based approach to fighting HIV/Aids in Belize. And this is stressing fundamental rights of people and treating people the way anyone would want to be treated. So we will be looking at issues of say screening blood, issues of confidentiality in the health system, issues of how we look at vulnerable groups for example, and also we would like to get as much input on adopting what we call the voluntary counseling and testing approach to fighting HIV/Aids."

"I do believe that with this policy and the recommendation for legislation, we will lobby government to act as quickly as possible and we believe the policy will create the kind of environment that will be most conducive to fighting the epidemic because it will be based on respect for fundamental human rights."

Consultations have been held in all other districts and a modified version national policy should be presented to cabinet by mid-January.
Love FM:

posted (December 10, 2004)
A four-day workshop continues today for the Violence Reduction and HIV/AIDS Education Unit of Youth for the Future. The forum is for the staff and members from the National Youth Corps National 4-H and Youth Empowerment Coordinators in the Belize City, Stann Creek and Cayo Districts. The workshop aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of H-I-V/AIDS and factors that are driving the epidemic in Belize; increasing the understanding of how the epidemic might be affecting youths; improving the ability to communicate appropriately and effectively with youths who are infected with or affected by H-I-V; increasing the knowledge of the organizations in Belize that offer comprehensive support to people who live with H-I-V in order to be able to make appropriate referral for young people. The training began yesterday and continues today from 9:00 to 3:00. The other dates for the session are December 13th and 14th. The training is made possible by funding provided by the OPEC Fund, the Ministry of Health, and other concerned organizations.
Ch 5:

ILO supports AIDS education in workplace

The global fight against AIDS is not being waged on a single battlefield or even led by a unified command. Instead it is largely a war of small skirmishes--scientific, social, political--conducted all over the world, sometimes successful, sometimes not. In Belize a new initiative currently being implemented with assistance from the United States Department of Labour is taking a different approach at AIDS education: carrying the message directly to the workplace. This morning the ILO/USDOL project enlisted the Belize City Council to join in the effort. Coordinator Sheila Middleton says the hope is that getting people to realize the need to put into action what they've learned is a good way to turn up the heat on AIDS.

Sheila Middleton, Coordinator, HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Program
“I really think that sometimes we as the educators out here, we really truly think that people understands and link the knowledge with the change of behaviour. But I think it’s something that we really have to work on trying to help people to link the knowledge with the behaviour change. I don’t think that we are wasting our time or anything, but I truly believe that the more information people are equipped with the more likely that change is to happen.”

Patrick Jones
“Do you see changes happening?”

Sheila Middleton
“In some ways, at times you are hopeful and some other times when you hear people make certain comments or people discriminating or stigmatizing people you get discouraged. But I do think we do making a change.”

“What the agreement clearly states is, it gives each company that have signed on to it an idea of what are the activities that will take place and what the contribution will be from the ILO/USDOL project as well what the companies contribution will be to the project. And basically all the company’s contribution is basically to allow their workers time off to do training within the working hours.”

Patrick Jones
“When it comes to AIDS in the workplace, what is the current status in Belize?”

Sheila Middleton
“Well when you look at the statistics it’s basically saying that the people in the working age fifteen to forty-four years are the ones that are most affected by the disease. So there has to be some way of doing some intervention and this project seeks to do that.”

Middleton says that to date, fourteen companies in the service, tourism and agriculture sectors have signed on to the agreement. Supporters of the initiative say that puts fifteen thousand people in the forefront of the education campaign with the hope that they will influence thousands more to make changes to their sexual behaviour.
Belize Times:

Reducing the Spread of the HIV/AIDS Virus

Research shows that Belize is becoming more populated with children whose mothers are having sexual intercourse without protection from the HIV/AIDS scourge.
Young people who engage themselves in such activities should first think and understand that there are risks involved and consequences that may arise.

We have many ways of protecting ourselves. Either by using contraceptives such as pills or condoms or we can simply not have sexual intercourse.

AIDS is a very serious disease. Single women must take into consideration the harm that can become a reality.

One friendly advice is to take sexual intercourse seriously. One should test themselves regularly and before having sex with first time partners. Secondly, each individual should practice honesty in every relationship. Meaning that one should only have one sexual partner and if one knows he/she is infected with the virus he/she should be honest and inform their partner. One should not continue spreading the virus and could be prosecuted for knowingly infecting someone with the virus.

Moreover, one should take into consideration that we must ensure a healthy life for future generations.

We must also give support to those who are infected with the virus. Giving them strength, courage and confidence would help them greatly.

Finally, one must always keep in mind that by keeping safe, acting responsibly, and protecting ourselves from the HIV/AIDS virus we should be preserving life.
Ch 5:

New equipments fights mother-child HIV

The war against AIDS is being fought on many fronts and today those on the battle line in Belize came one step closer to preventing transmission of HIV from mother to child. Three private companies have pooled their resources to come up with over forty thousand dollars that will allow the Central Medical Laboratory to acquire equipment and supplies for in-country testing for the early detection of HIV in babies born to HIV positive mothers. According to director of the National AIDS Program, Dr. Paul Edwards, the arrival of these machines will mark a significant step forward for Belize.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Director, National AIDS Program
“What we’ve done in the past, we were able to take samples and send them to Honduras. We had some limitations. Sometimes samples would not get there. Sometimes the samples would be inadequate. We would have to go back and look for that mother and that child. Stick the child again and send the sample. That project with Honduras also ended last year. So we need to look at a new mechanism how we can get that child tested as early possible so we can provide the best of care.”

Dorla Mckenzie, Coordinator, Mother Child Transmission Program

“Well this equipment will be able to give young babies the test much earlier. You know we need special equipment for young babies to tell if they are positive early in life, at six weeks, at three months. Without this equipment the baby will have to wait until they are one year and six months when they will get another type of test to tell if they are HIV positive. But with this equipment at six weeks we can know if the baby is positive or not.”

Patrick Jones
“And of course the benefit to that is that treatment can start earlier.”

Dorla Mckenzie
“Yes, that is true. You know that not all babies have to be born positive once the mother is positive. But some of them will be positive and these babies get sick quite early in life. Not like an adult, they get sick quite quickly and so we need to identify this along with other measures that the mother have to take so that we can try to help these babies as early as possible.”

Paul Edwards
“If they are found to be HIV positive then the Government provides a medication forty-eight hours before that child is born. Medication is also provided to that child within forty-eight hours to seventy-two hours after that child is born. And the Government of this country provides artificial milk for nine months of that child’s life because we also know that the virus is also in the breast milk.”

Shell Belize, First Caribbean International Bank and PAHO contributed a total of more than forty thousand dollars to the Central Medical Lab. According to Edwards, the programme for the prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to child started in 2001, with technical support from the Bahamas. The machines should be installed at the Central Medical Lab within the next six months and technicians hope to begin full testing by the end of the year. According to the project proposal presented to the funding agencies, sixty infants are born to HIV positive mothers each year in Belize.
I get mi test pan Monsay. Doctor say no news is good news. Ih say if anything wrong ih wah call me by Thursday. So I got mi finga cross ih nuh call me today.

belizean said:
Bwai, mek sure you yuh cova up even if yuh drunk!
U GUYS are FUN!!! dont even think of having sex with nobdy living in BELIZE!!!! Belize IS BAD NEWS ALL THE WAY AROUND.

Belizean Girls are worth watching, but should not be touch oe eaten!!!! The same goes for the Men in Belize: People dont have sex with them!!!!!! It's safer to have sex by yourself.:D :D :D :beerchug

Advances in HIV Treatment for Children

04 February, 2005 - Belmopan
Social corporate responsibility was demonstrated on Wednesday, February
2nd, 2005 at the Central Medical Laboratory, Belize City, when Shell
Belize Limited donated BZ$10,000, First Caribbean International Bank
BZ$12,000 and PAHO BZ$18,525.44 all contributed to the programme of the
Prevention of the Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, Ministry
of Health.

This money will be utilized to purchase a Polymerase Chain Reaction
(PCR) System for qualitative analysis of HIV in children born to HIV
Positive Mothers.

In the year 2001 the PMTCT Programme was initiated at the Ministry of
Health, Belize, through a Technical Cooperation among Countries
including Belize and the PMTCT Programme, Bahamas. This programme
started as a pilot project in two districts and in 2002 the PMTCT
Programme was implemented countrywide along with the Guidelines for the
Management of the Prevention of the Mother to Child Transmission of HIV.

This protocol involves voluntary HIV testing of the pregnant mother in
the first trimester and at the thirty-sixth gestational week, the use of
Nevirapine to the HIV positive mother 48 hours before delivery and also
to the newborn 48 to 72 hours after birth and the provision of
artificial milk for nine months.

In 2003 the coverage of pregnant mothers who voluntarily performed their
HIV test was 87% as compared to 70% in 2002 and 35% in 2001.

The HIV prevalence among pregnant women who tested (approximately 70%)
countrywide was 1.1% (generalized epidemic) in 2002. The HIV prevalence
rate among pregnant women who tested (87%) was 0.92% in 2003.

The diagnosis of HIV in the newborns less than 18 months of age is very
difficult to perform with the conventional testing of antibodies, using
rapid tests, because these tests do not discriminate against the
maternal antibodies (IgG) acquired across the placenta against the
antibodies created by the infants own immune system.

This difficulty is compounded by the fact that the mother’s antibodies
against HIV can circulate in the child for up to 15 months after the
child’s birth. To determine the DNA HIV status of the newborn, blood
samples (dry spot on filter paper), taken at twelve weeks, were sent to
the Virology Laboratory of the National Autonomous University of
Honduras, however, this process was met with many challenges and also
ended in 2004.

This machine that will be utilized to determine the HIV Status of babies
born to HIV Positive Mothers will test babies when they are six weeks
old. Testing at this early age of life will provide an early diagnosis
for those babies who are HIV Positive as in our Belizean experience
these babies develop AIDS within the first year of life. Knowing the HIV
Status early also provides for better monitoring of care and treatment.

It is of paramount importance that pregnant mothers attend antenatal
services very early in their pregnancy to access the PMTCT Programme.
Ch 5:

Teens discuss HIV/AIDS

This evening the Alliance Against Aids and the Women Issues Network of Belize invited high school students and other young people from across the country to share their concerns, opinions and make suggestions about HIV and AIDS. According to one of the coordinators, Martha Carrillo, the disease continues to affect the young population especially women. Carillo says they invited key decision makers and guest artist Tanya Stephens to the event to help raise the awareness and see what they can do together to protect those who are most vulnerable.

Martha Carillo, Coordinator, HIV/AIDS Forum
“We have a group of young representatives from agencies as well as schools, who will posing questions to someone who is living with HIV and also a woman who has experienced domestic abuse. She is also here to share her experience and we also have the Power for Women Organization from Dangriga here with us today. Most importantly, I cannot forget to mention is that we have also invited key decision makers here. Like I told them, they need to take the hot seat and so the young people will also be posing their concerns to them.”

Jacqueline Woods
“How effective are these forums?”

Martha Carillo
“Well we know that we have to pair it up something like Tanya Stephens. We know and we accept that if we would just say HIV and Gender-Base violence, it would probably have the young people coming but not with the kind of enthusiasm that we are experiencing here today because Tanya Stephens is here.”

Carillo says gender-based violence continues to be one of the factors fueling the HIV/Aids epidemic among the female population in Belize.
What are we heading for, Disaster?
We can't say, because there is no one there to teach or educate us about sex.

Its rather the attitude that we have towards its. Some thunj that its not cool to so your research and educate yourself. But rather cool to be with as much partners as possible.

Now a days, the least person that we might not think is infected, is.
There are many ways to protect ourselves, and there are many institutions that aid sex education program. So who does not want to take care of themselves, is a fool.

Its alarming the rate that AIDS is spreading. So you betta be careful who ou get your loving from.

There are many ways to have safe sex, and i think that it is not an insult but a gesture of love to have you and your parter to take a test.

The young Belizeans need to take care of ourselves, otherwise, we are by this way, killing one another

"Check yourself before u reck yourself"
Ch 5:

People with H.I.V. speak out
Statistics indicate that virtually every adult Belizean is acquainted with someone who carries H.I.V., the virus that causes
AIDS. What makes it interesting is that you don't know who they are. The question News 5's Jacqueline Woods confronted this morning was: should it matter?

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Look at the faces of these men and women. How many of them would you say are H.I.V. Positive? The question may be a difficult one to answer but the truth is all of these persons are living with the virus. The message is powerful as it drives home the point that H.I.V. and AIDS does not discriminate; it affects anyone.

Emmerson Talbert, Activist, H.I.V./AIDS
“That’s one of the main factor about this disease because people underestimate it. People are looking on the outside and say but I can’t see H.I.V. there. A lot of people say that me and I try to take away that misconception immediately.”

Thirty-four year old Emmerson Talbert is presently serving time at Hattieville Prison. However most of that sentence is spent talking to fellow inmates about H.I.V. and AIDS. It was four years ago that he found out that he had contracted the virus.

Emmerson Talbert
“The first two years were really rough; how to cope with it, how to accept myself as I am and dealing with family support and friends. It was really hard but after the third year, I kind of got a wake up call and I decided that I got to take charge of my life.”

There are just under twenty-five hundred people who are H.I.V. positive in Belize. But because the number represents only those cases that have been recorded, the Ministry of Health suspects that an even larger number of persons may have the virus and do not even know it.

Rodel Beltran Perera, Executive Director, Alliance Against AIDS
“That again is something sad to say that it is not improving, the numbers continue to increase and I think that our response is not happening as fast as it can be.”

Alliance Against AIDS Executive Director, Rodel Beltran Perera, says because persons with H.I.V. look healthy it is easy to be deceived by the appearances. So how do we fight against the disease? The Central American Regional Network of H.I.V. positive persons better known as REDCA has brought together twenty-three of its participants to share their experiences and discuss what can be done to improve their living conditions.

Rodel Beltran Perera
“There are people from Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that are here and all these delegates are opened about their H.I.V. status.”

“The importance of holding a meeting Like this in Belize is going to show Belizeans that the danger out there is not the person that is ill and has AIDS, that the dangers of the epidemic or the pandemic as we are describing it is that people that look normal and look very healthy can be H.I.V. positive.”

Thirty-nine year old Edith Tristan, a Panamanian national, has been living with H.I.V. for the past fifteen years. The disease claimed the lives of her husband and seven-year-old son. Today, Tristan is a member of the International Community of H.I.V. Positive Women

Edith Tristan, Delegate, Panamá
“The International Community of H.I.V. Positive Women is fighting for recognition for their rights, for protection, to improve our lives and to empower ourselves not only as women but also as H.I.V. positive women.”

Emmerson Talbert
“Where there is life, there is hope and that is what I as an activist and as a person living positive, try to bring through to other people even those who are not infected but are affected by this virus.”

“I feel quite uncomfortable to think about the situation and how far backwards we are as a nation and to be dealing with our own people. This is why I am a part of this workshop right now so as to help empower and educate my fellow Belizeans to accept us. We need them as much as they need us because no one can tell it better than a person who feels it and who knows it.”

Like REDCA’s Secretary Erickson Chiclayo. Chiclayo, a Guatemalan has been living with H.I.V. for the past thirteen years.

Erickson Chiclayo, Secretary, REDCA
“We want to strengthen, empower H.I.V. positive Belizeans. We want to do that in the entire region, we want to make more visible H.I.V. positive persons and we would also like to push the issue of access to medication, to see that medication is available to everybody.”

“I believe that H.I.V. positive persons are able to contribute to society in all areas and people need to recognise that not because we are sick we are no longer able to work and participate in our respective communities.”

Forty-nine year old Lydia Spain says when she found out that she had contracted the virus she thought about committing suicide. Today she is a lot stronger despite the many challenges.

Lydia Spain, Activist, H.I.V./AIDS
“Sometimes when you go around people treat you funny, people feel like if they hug you they are going to catch AIDS from you or if they drink out of your cup they are going to catch it from you. It is not like that and my opportunity, I have two weeks that I come out of prison and I really want to go forward and just teach people that even if you have AIDS you can still live. You can come out of that dog hole that you are in and just come and find help, seek help because if you don’t you’ll just stay there and die.”

The participants say now that they have come forward it is their hope that people--especially young ones--take anyone for granted and take the necessary steps to protect themselves. The information shared will be included in a document called the declaration of Belize by persons living with H.I.V. throughout the region. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.
Launching of HIV/AIDS Annual Epidemiological Profile

02 March, 2005 - Belmopan
The National AIDS Programme, Ministry of Health, Belize, will launch its
"Annual HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Profile 2003" Report on Friday, March
4th 2005 at 1:30pm at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City.

Some important conclusions of the report include:

HIV/AIDS is a severe problem in Belize, being its prevalence the highest
per capita in Central America making our country number one in rank.
Although HIV/AIDS in Belize is concentrated primarily among young men,
the epidemic is spreading to an increasing proportion of women. The
ratio male-to-female of HIV Infections indicate a feminization of the

The HIV/AIDS Epidemic has claimed a high number of lives. In 2003 it
ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in all age groups and for
the age group 30-49 ranked first, therefore, many persons in this age
group are dying from AIDS.

The mode of transmission is difficult to ascertain but in the Belizean
context sexual activity constitutes the mode of transmission for the
great majority of HIV Infections.

In 2002 the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV Program
(PMTCT) was implemented countrywide. In that same year 70% of pregnant
mothers tested for HIV and in 2003 testing was increased to 87%. This
new program will need continuous monitor and evaluation, however, in the
first years the health impact is quite evident.

The Government of Belize allocated the funds and the Ministry of Health
bought medications against HIV/AIDS for 200 Persons Living With
HIV/AIDS. On World AIDS Day 2004 the Minister of Health declared free
universal access to these medications.

The Tuberculosis/HIV co-infection continues to pose a major threat. In
spite of the reduction of TB cases during the year 2003 there is an
indication of an upward trend of the prevalence of TB/HIV in the last
three years.

Belize was only one of the few Caribbean Countries present at the Annual
National Epidemiologist and Laboratory Directors Meeting, held in
Trinidad in 2004, which had completed the HIV/AIDS Epidemiological
Profile template as provided by the Caribbean Epidemiological Center

The report demonstrates that HIV/AIDS reported from the years 1986 (the
first case of AIDS was reported in Belize) to end 2003 indicate that
2,471 individuals acquired HIV, 669 developed AIDS and there was a
reported 464 deaths related to AIDS. In 2003 the reported new HIV
Infections were 447, AIDS Cases were 109 and deaths related to AIDS were

The reported new HIV Infections for 2000-2002 were 226, 330 and 431
respectively. The reported AIDS Cases for this same time period were 46,
72 and 109. The deaths related to AIDS were 38, 32 and 77 respectively
for 2000-2002. Clearly the number of newly diagnosed HIV Infections
continues to increase in Belize.

In the year 2003 more females were reported with new HIV Infections as
compared to males in the age groups of 15-19, 20-24 (almost three times
as much) 25-29, 30-35 years old, however, males were more infected in
the age groups from 35 to 54 and in older years. It is evident then,
among those tested, that females were infected at a younger age than
males and therefore its implication for the reproductive years could
have grave impact. At the same time, the possibility of older HIV
infected men having sexual intercourse with younger women could have
contributed to new HIV Infections in the specific female age groups.

In the year 2000, death related to AIDS was ranked as the ninth leading
cause in all age groups whereas in 2003 it was ranked as the fourth
leading cause of death. The age group 15-49 years, as the productive
years for both males and females and the reproductive years for females,
is the age group most affected by the epidemic in Belize. However,
within that specific age group, death related to AIDS ranked third in
20-29 years and first in both the age groups 30-39 years and 40-49 years
in 2003.

Today, more than ever, we all need to "KNOW YOUR HIV STATUS, GET TESTED
TODAY" to be individually, both male and female, responsible for our
sexual behavior, to best take care of ourselves, to access services and
medications available before one develops AIDS and of paramount
importance: to stop the spread of this disease in our beloved Belize.
Ch 7:

AIDS statistics still look grim

It's the fourth leading cause of death in Belize and ranks first for those between thirty and forty-nine years of age. Yes, AIDS in Belize is as big a killer as ever...and today the Ministry of Health released the numbers to prove it.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Since Belize’s first AIDS case was reported in 1986, the disease has taken a heavy toll on Belizeans. A total of two thousand, six hundred and seventy-six Belizeans were living with HIV and AIDS at the end of 2003 and today preliminary data indicates that the number of HIV infections recorded for 2004 is four hundred and fifty-seven.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Director, Epidemiology Unit, M.O.H.
“More individuals are being diagnosed with this disease. However, we must look at that as something being very important in the sense that the earlier someone knows his H.I.V. status, you are better able to take care of yourself and access medication in a timely fashion and therefore not be admitted to the hospital being full-blown AIDS, and many times when that happens not even the medication can help those individuals.”

The Ministry of Health reports that between 1986 and 2003 a total of four hundred and sixty-four AIDS patients died. That statistic is just one of many figures recorded in the annual HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Profile for 2003. Today, the twenty-three page document was officially published, and as expected, the information shows that Belize has the highest number of cases per capita in Central America.

Dr. Paul Edwards
“The other factors that are very important to discuss is the increasing number of females being infected with the virus. We’re almost seeing that in Belize it’s almost for every male there is a female as compared to in the year 1996, there were two males for every female. We are noticing the districts that are being affected as such by this disease: the Belize District, the Stann Creek District, and the Cayo District. Those are very critical information for us to be aware of the status of the epidemic here in Belize.”

Also noted at today's launch was the increasing problem of under reporting of cases by physicians who continue to avoid writing the cause of AIDS related deaths, in an effort to protect families from stigma and discrimination. In his presentation to the gathering, Director of Health Services, Doctor Errol Vanzie, not only reminded clinicians that the practise is illegal but says there is a coded system in place that can be used to ensure confidentiality.