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Nov 4, 2014

A Meeting for Youths Living with HIV in Belize

A two-day meeting started today at the Royal Room of the Ramada Belize City Princess to address the issue of HIV and Youths. Hosted by the Collaborative Network of Persons Living with HIV in Belize, the meeting is the first national assembly of HIV positive youths as an initiative of a larger organization, Young Persons Living with HIV from Latin America and the Caribbean. In each country, the assemblies are being held to empower and instill leadership qualities in young persons living with HIV. According to Eric Castellanos, who is the Executive Director of C-NET, married couples, homosexuals and even person who were born with the disease are participating in the two-day meeting.

 

Eric Castellanos, Executive Director, CNET+

“More and more, young persons are being affected and infected in the recent statistics. So we know also as a reality that young people face different obstacles, different barriers and it is the same thing with persons living with HIV. Young persons living with HIV face the same the obstacles that any other adolescent and the challenges they face in addition to being HIV positive and all that comes with it—stigma and discrimination and the challenges of adherence to medication and being on life-long treatment to HIV. So we decided that it was a good opportunity now that we have a consolidated network of persons living with HIV to open the space for young people with HIV to be able to express their specific needs and be able to work on a solution and be part of a solution towards this.  We thought that maybe the youth, as many people would think, would not want to come together and express that they are HIV positive, but we had an overwhelming number of young persons that contacted us once we made it public that this is going to happen and we had limited space available so we had some people that were not able to come today, but they will be part of future activities. But we have people from all the districts today.”

 

Randy Santos

Randy Santos, Board Member, CNET+

“I was diagnosed in 2010 and when I was diagnosed, I was already working with BFLA so I was a peer educator so I knew all the information that I needed to know. So I wasn’t scared when I found out because I was already in that setting. I knew there were some aspects of my life that I needed to change in reference to my health and that’s what I keep on doing and I try to empower myself and others especially young persons because we have so many young persons going through stuff and they don’t have things that cater to them. So I always try to say…let me be the one to put myself out there and try to inspire others.”

 

According to Castellanos, most of the persons attending the conference contracted the disease before they were eighteen years of age.

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