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Jul 1, 2015

National AIDS Commission Hosts Regional Testing Initiative

More than one percent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS and that number could very well be higher. The fear of discrimination and confidentiality remain one of the biggest hurdles to testing, especially among men. Since Friday and throughout today, the National AIDS Commission has been promoting a regional initiative to get tested. The theme is “Are You Positive You Are Negative? Know Your Status.” Duane Moody dropped by the testing area and has a report.

 

There are approximately four thousand known Belizeans living with HIV/AIDS; the exact figure is unknown because of the stigma associated with getting tested. But that is approximately one point two percent of the population that is afflicted with the virus and it puts Belize in the top five countries regionally as it relates to the highest ratio of persons living with the virus. Belize, Cayo and Stann Creek are the three districts with the highest number of cases and it is due to lifestyle and in most cases, simply a cultural thing.

 

Arthur Usher

Arthur Usher, Communication and Programs Officer, National Aids Commission

“Our prevalence rate has fallen—last year it was one point four; right now it is one point two. So because of the consistent testing and consistent outreach from the other organizations, Ministry of Health, BFLA, PASMO, National AIDS Commission, the idea and the concept and the stigma attached to testing seems to be falling and there seems to be a trend towards a decline. So we are looking towards that.”

 

Duane Moody

“Are you positive you are negative?” That’s the question you should be asking yourselves about your sexual health status. It is equally important as exercising or even dieting and today the National AIDS Commission is hosting a regional testing day here in Belize City. Their target – the men of this society.”

 

Arthur Usher

“In terms of the issues of men being testing visa-versa to women, it is still an issue yes because of the stigma. There is still this attitude that men don’t need to be testing. We don’t want to come to the sites because we feel like people will know our business. It is a local attitude; we are trying to break that stigma slowly and let men understand that their general sexual health is important as well as your physical health. Your workout, exercise, yo play basketball, yo play football; that is fine, but you need to take care of yourself sexually, as well. That’s also important.”

 

UNAIDS Caribbean recently released the findings of a survey, the Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey (CARIMIS). It focused on public attitudes to sexual and reproductive health, abuse, violence and discrimination related to HIV and homophobia. The report indicated that confidentiality in our health care system is one of the biggest hindrances to testing. The National AIDS Commission has embarked on several campaigns to get more men tested.

 

Arthur Usher

“Besides the actually testing, what we are doing, we are targeting men. As we know in Belize, women get tested twice as much as men do. So we are targeting men and we are having some campaigns. We have bring a man campaign where the first twenty-five men that come in get an official regional testing day mug and the person that brings in the most men gets a gift package at the end of the day. We also have a selfie and a video competition running. What we have been doing to target men is going to the jobsites. So we’ve been doing that for six weeks prior to today. So we have been going to all the big businesses, the construction sites and testing the men where they are, because they didn’t want to come to us so we took it to them. And that has been very successful.”

 

Kevin Mendez

Today, there was no shortage of men and women getting tested. Each had their own reasons for knowing their status.

 

Kevin Mendez, Got Tested

“For me, my health comes first so I always get tested every three to six months. Whenever I do my test and I am sure that I am negative. It gives me a piece of mind and it ensures that I am productive in my job; I don’t have any stress and I am ensuring that I am healthy so that I can be productive for myself, for my community and also to a point I’m also the breadwinner at home. So I can bring more income home.”

 

Eric Usher

Eric Usher, Got Tested

“I want to prove to my wife that I am not a person running about. When yo got a wife, I believe yo be loyal to she and stick to she only. Yo noh need nobody out yah cause yo done have a lady already and weh yow ah look pan dehn lady when yo done have one.”

 

Duane Moody

“Is this the first time you are getting tested?”

 

Eric Usher

“No I always test with Misses Bradley so that’s why I come and do it again.”

 

Everett Flowers

Everett Flowers, Got Tested

“It’s just a short thing to do. They are just giving a free AIDS test today; you just want to get a test to be confident about yourself that you are positive in all the way of your life.”

 

Duane Moody

“So you would encourage men to get tested?”

 

Everett Flowers

“Yes, it’s not something to be ashamed of or to be a nincompoop about. It is something to feel proud about to do and just do it. Even if you are not having sex, I think you should come out and get tested.”

 

So, “Are You Positive You Are Negative? Know Your Status.” Get tested today. Duane Moody for News Five.

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