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Jun 28, 2018

Healthy Living: National Testing Day

Do you know your HIV status? The Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Commission have been working to ensure that you do. For some time now, there have been two major testing days annually for the public to know their status – one mid-year and the other in December first World AIDS day. Tonight in Healthy Living looks at some of the reasons why you should know your status.

 

Marleni Cuellar reporting

The first national testing day will be commemorated in Belize on Friday June 29. It’s a day set aside where free HIV tests will be offered in public spaces countrywide – encouraging all Belizeans to know their status. While HIV may not be at the forefront of the public conversation; it is still very much an important issue for all us as Communication Officer for NAC explains.

 

Arthur Usher

Arthur Usher, Communications & Program Officer, National AIDS Commission

“We tend to not think about it anymore because it’s been deemed a chronic disease and so we have the medications and all of that but his is still very much an issue. It is prevalent we’re averaging right now between three thousand six hundred to four thousand people with the disease and that’s recorded. And so just think about that in terms of percentage of a population of three hundred and seventy thousand people and not knowing how many people these four thousand people have come in contact with.”

 

With all the “get tested” campaigns over the years there are still people who are reluctant to get tested.

 

Arthur Usher

“Fear. Their own personal fear some of them come outright and say I know I’ve been a bit promiscuous and I don’t really want to know. That’s they’re fear. They’re other fear is the system. They are afraid of people knowing they’re status or the information leaking to their loved ones and so we have to kinda quell some of those fears and speak to them the confidentiality of the system that we’re using the BHIS – the government system. It is one of the best in the region I think Belize is one of the few countries in this region that has that system and so we really to try to speak to them about that. The danger in not knowing is spreading the disease. So you may not know and most people might feel quite fine quite healthy depending on your metabolism and how you’re dealing with and so you might say nothing’s wrong. You then go on with your life and you end up spreading the disease. And so I’ll often speak to people about healthy and Belizean on a whole needs to develop better health seeking behaviors. We have the split where there are more women than men getting tested for that same reason. Women are more apt to come and seek health and so the men on a whole have to build up themselves to say I’m going t come out and get tested.”

 

Usher appeals to men to see testing as an extension of taking care of their health.

 

Arthur Usher

“Why live your life with that amount of fear if you want to continue with your lifestyle whatever that is. It’s best to know your health. It’s the same as exercising. It’s the same as playing basketball. It’s the same as eating right. All these factors plays into your health and longevity in your life. If you have a heart condition you’d want to know. If you had diabetes and all these other conditions, same thing.”

 

HIV tests are now even easier to take and getting the results is faster. It’s a simple finger prick, a drop of blood and ten to fifteen minutes later you will know your status. The long term goal is get ninety percent of those who are positive to know their status.

 

Arthur Usher

“We’re aiming for ninety percent of those people who have HIV to know they’re status and ninety percent of that population would adhere to medication and ninety percent of those who adhere to medication would have a viral load suppression which means that virus is almost undetectable in the body. So that’s our goal for 2020.”

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