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Nov 29, 2005

Media workers gather to discuss HIV/AIDS coverage

Story PictureWith World AIDS Day just two days away, today the National AIDS Commission and Pan American Health Organization met with Belizean journalists to examine the reporting of HIV/AIDS in Belize. Among the topics were whether or not our print and electronic media are helping to increase awareness of the epidemic and what reporters can do to try and lessen the stigma attached to the disease. A recent report which actually showed a homeless woman dying in the streets has provoked considerable public interest, but questions arise about our portrayal of AIDS victims and just who is responsible for their care. News Five spoke with Ruth Jaramillo of the National AIDS Commission about the issues of individual awareness and collective responsibility.

Ruth Jaramillo, Tech Director, National AIDS Commission
?I want to make a correction; we?ve had public attention on HIV/AIDS all along. What this person?s situation has brought to light is the fact that even though efforts have been made, there is not enough response from our community, from individuals, from families. And this is why we still have so much more to do in terms of the fight.?

?What is our role as individuals? The sad part is when we talk about HIV/AIDS, and we talk to anyone, I am sure if you do an interview people will say, I know about HIV, I know all about it, I know how it is transmitted. But they you ask, can it happen to me, and people stop and, what? What are you talking about? It hasn?t come to terms that this disease, this epidemic can affect each and every one of us, as an individual and how we as humans, should be treating each other.?

According to a report furnished by the National Health Information Surveillance Unit, in 2004 there were four hundred and fifty-seven new reported HIV infections and sixty-five cases of AIDS. Ninety-four people died from the disease in Belize. The Belize District, specifically Belize City, had the highest number of new HIV infections with fifty-four point three percent of the cases being male and forty-five point seven percent female. In terms of this year, in the second quarter of 2005 alone, there were one hundred and twenty-seven new HIV infections reported, five new cases of AIDS, and eighteen deaths. This was for the period April to June of this year. The yearly report for 2005 should come out in January.

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