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Jul 7, 2015

Developing a National HIV Prevention Strategy

The focus of the National AIDS Commission is on men getting them tested and providing them with prevention tools. But according to studies, the youth are also a most vulnerable population. For the rest of the week, the Commission is developing the appropriate national response to control and reduce the number of affected persons. The key is access to information. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Stakeholders from across public and private sector agencies gathered today at the Inspiration Center for the official launch of a HIV Prevention Workshop. The capacity building exercise is to develop a national strategy for Belize on HIV Prevention, particularly targeting the adolescent and youth. And for the next three days, the event will look at tools that can be implemented. Leading agency for the project is the National AIDS Commission.

 

Gustavo Perera

Gustavo Perera, Executive Director, NAC

“The work of the NAC cuts across many sectors, but our main focus is actually coordinating the national response at the targeted groups that are affected. So while in Belize the concentration of the epidemic is among men and at the adult level, we have found that recently through various studies that adolescents and youth are in fact greatly affected by HIV or vulnerable, very vulnerable at this point and we thought that we also need to put in the interventions to address some of the risks and the situation that is presently affecting adolescents and youth.”

 

In creating its local strategy, NAC sought the assistance of a team from the Ministry of Health in Jamaica. As it currently stands, Jamaica has in place strategies that have kept the number of cases for HIV below one percent among its youth population.

 

Sannia Sutherland

Sannia Sutherland, Director of Technical Coordination, MOH, Jamaica

“What they wanted to do was get a feel of how we’ve done it and see what we’ve done and actually view our intervention. So they really got into it, were a part of the team and went to all our high risk sites, our low risk sites just to see what happens and how we do it. We have a package of interventions and it includes HIV testing in outreach settings. It also includes a risk reduction conversation as well as condom distribution. Of course we are cognizant of the age of consent and so without parental supervision, a person cannot consent to getting an HIV test if they are below the age of consent. What we will be doing is kind of guiding them under interventions. They have identified some risk behaviors for our Belizean youths and what they want to do is unpack that and peel away all the layers and to figure out which type of interventions, which mix of interventions are going to work best.”

 

Providing both technical and financial support for this initiative is the local arm of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF. Country Representative, Ivan Yerovi spoke of the importance of working together to ensure that the key policies are implemented.

 

Ivan Yerovi

Ivan Yerovi, UNICEF Representative

“The access to information to adolescence. The information should not come from Google, should not come from the internet. Information should come from parents, but it should also come from health officers, from teachers and everyone should be involved. The issue here is access. Access to information, access to preventative measures, access to condoms. I mean if we go to Brazil, every adolescent has access to condoms. There is no mystery or secret thing about that. It is having access to information. Whenever the adolescents are having sex because adolescents are having sex—let’s not prevent that they are not doing it—they are doing it. Let’s have them access to education and let’s make available to them condoms or whatever they choose to prevent—not only HIV, but infection, teenage pregnancy, etc. So for me it is key: parent involvement, access to information and access to preventative measures.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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