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Jun 29, 2017

Why Men Must Get Tested for HIV

On Friday in eight locations across the country and many more across the Caribbean, testing sites will be open for Regional Testing Day. This public/private sector regional collaboration is in its tenth year and in Belize is coordinated through Scotiabank, National Aids Commission and the Ministry of Health. This year, the team is doubling testing sites across the country and are making a special plea for Belizean men to come out and get tested.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Earlier this month, the United Nations Special Envoy on HIV to the Caribbean Dr Edward Greene spoke of the worrying statistics of HIV in the Caribbean region. He noted that after years of progress, the Caribbean is seeing a nine percent overall increase in New HIV Infections that is according to the 2016 UNAIDS Gap report,. While the major increases took place in countries like Cuba and Jamaica, in Belize, two hundred and twenty-five new HIV infections were recorded for 2016. According to Communication and Program coordinator for the National Aids Commission, Arthur Usher, the latest data also shows that there is a greater need for men to know their status.

 

Arthur Usher

Arthur Usher, Communications & Programs Coordinator, National Aids Commission

“Our main focus will be the men and that’s on a whole whatever age range – wherever. The idea being our data is saying that more women get tested than men almost two to one in ratio. Presently the rate for men is higher. Again, I think because of lifestyle choices and behaviors and how we seek health services.”

 

In his work advocating testing, Usher finds that men need to be reminded of the personal reasons and benefits of getting tested; while being honest about their behaviors and roles.

 

Arthur Usher

“Come check your health. That’s number one in the book. You need to know that is the main reason. Change your behavior – whatever. Check your health. Secondly, I would say as men we know what we’re doing not doing. So um, come out and know what you’re supposed to do. And do it properly then. If you want to have multiple partners that fine. No judgment.  Use your condom. Know your status. If you know your health status, you’re better able to work; you’re better able to do the things you know you need to do, you’re better able to be a man within the society – provide for your family. Be a role model and be the man you are supposed to be. Some of them are scared of the needles. It’s not the long drawn out needle in the arm anymore. It’s basically one prick on the finger. Some of them still scared of the prick, but to me it’s one or two seconds of knowing where you are over not knowing where you are. One prick on your finger to save your life; it should not be that difficult.”
In their outreach, they have reached out to male dominated professions and shift workers in the past few weeks to bring the testing services directly to the men. It is recommended that HIV tests are done twice a year and regional testing day is only one of several options men have to find out their status.

 

Arthur Usher

“Eight locations countrywide tomorrow June thirtieth from nine a.m. till three p.m. Come out and get tested and we’ve made it accessible to everybody. It’s free, it’s rapid – its quick fifteen minutes. We have this regional testing day is mid-year and world aids day is December first so you can do another testing. So you can do it that way or you can go to Ministry of Health or BFLA or any of these facilities and get tested.”

 

The testing services will be conducted by Ministry of Health professionals. In addition to knowing your status, there will be referral services for anyone who tests positive. Currently the Ministry of Health does provide free anti retroviral treatment for HIV positive persons. Testing sites for Regional testing day will San Ignacio, Dangriga, Punta Gorda, San Pedro, Corozal, Orange Walk, Belmopan and Belize City.

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