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Dec 1, 2014

Have You Been Tested? World AIDS Day is celebrated

December first is celebrated annually as World AIDS Day; the global event focuses on breaking the stigma and locally this year, the Ministry of Health held activities to sensitize Belizeans about the benefits of knowing their status; in a nutshell, prevention is better than cure. Across the country, health fairs were held simultaneously to create awareness on the deadly disease, primarily to encourage men to get tested. News Five’s Duane Moody attended the fair held at the Battlefield Park in Belize City and found out more about the efforts various health partners are promoting to have more men get tested.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

World AIDS Day is a global initiative to raise awareness, decrease stigma and discrimination, and improve education about HIV and AIDS. In Belize, the disease is considered as a concentrated epidemic. To celebrate World AIDS Day, the National AIDS Commission, the National HIV Programme of the Ministry of Health and their partner agencies held a health fair as part of activities for 2014. The theme this year is: “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”

 

Margaret Bradley

Nurse Margaret Bradley, VCT Coordinator, Ministry of Health

“We take it out this year to invite other people to help to educate more because I think the public need more education about HIV and AIDS. It is best to know your status because we do not know each other, we only know them by face status but we don’t know their status. And sometimes even you do not know your status until you get tested. So we are encouraging, especially men, because last year, men was the one that had the highest rate in being reactive…more than the females. So we are asking that men come out and because of that, we know that men are the dominant one because of men with men and men with female.”

 

Recent figures show that the total number of HIV cases has decreased and so has the number of new infections when compared to past years. According to the Ministry, a Modes of Transmission Study suggests that around seventy percent of new infections in 2014 will occur in men and so a national initiative will be refocused on increased HIV testing for men.

 

Arthur Usher

Arthur Usher, Communications and Programs Officer, National AIDS Commission

“2013, there were two hundred and forty-one new infections in the country and in terms of the age groups, we are looking at persons fifteen years and above; that’s the main cohort. There is a sub cohort to that that you would say fifteen to nineteen in terms of young ladies and twenty-five and above in terms of men. But from the general, it is fifteen to sixty-five.  There is information, people know about HIV; it’s been around for about thirty years, but there is a deficiency in terms of knowledge put into practice. What we are seeing is probably an issue of culture because people; it’s difficult to change your behavior, if you are used to certain things.”

 

Knowing your status is the best way to protect yourself from the virus and at today’s fair, many persons came out to get tested—free of cost—including Allister Barrow.

 

Allister Barrow, Resident

“Ina my view and I think it should be in everyone’s view—the reason why it is very important to come take your HIV test is to know your status, yo want to know where you stand in society. If you come and you take your HIV test, you wah know that yo either positive or negative and if yo positive yo keep it to yourself…noh pass it on to nobody else. And if yo negative, stay negative and protect yoself at all time.”

 

Reporter

“Weh you think di hold back man from get testing?”

 

Allister Barrow

Allister Barrow

“Majority of the time, I think that they are scared. I mean they are scared to know their status. Because if you noh scared enough and you got that mindset that you noh have to take that HIV test or anything, you are fully confident in yourself that you are negative. But that could never tell. So you can have confidence in that, but until you take your test then you will know. So with that mindset I think dah scared dehn scared.”

 

Angela Wiltshire, Resident

“I usually do, but on the first of December, I know that it is World AIDS Day and I usually come and do my test and apart from that I love the aspect of the educational background on educating the public on AIDS.”

 

Duane Moody

Angela Wiltshire

“Do you think that it is something that other people should take advantage of; actually come out and get tested?”

 

Angela Wiltshire

“Of course it is because it is free and it is best that you know your status.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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