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Jun 23, 2011

Safe sex protection on the decrease among two high risk groups

The most recent statistics for HIV/AIDS show a decrease in new infections but while we are being spared in that area, there is some grim news to report. The Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO) reports that there is a higher demand for sexual workers but that the use of protection for safe sex is on the decrease among two high risk groups. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

In 2007 Pasmo carried out a baseline behavioral survey on two high risk groups, ‘Sex Workers’ and ‘Men who have sex with men’. In 2010 they followed up with round two of that survey to point out the different sexual trends and behaviors .

Lara Smith, Country Manager, PASMO

Lara Smith

“We have seen some decreases in some key behavioral indicators that we as nation are looking to respond to, including condom use with last partner, consistent condom use in the previous month. So those we do have some areas that we do need to be working on and those are kind of highlighted in the study today. There has been an increase in knowledge which is great but not always as directly than responding to an increase in safer sexual practices among these groups. So we have knowledge increasing but not necessarily safe sexual practices.”

Joan Burke of the BFLA says that there is also an urgent need for behavioral change in the patrons of these two high risk groups:

Joan Burke, Executive Director, BFLA

“You’re saying ok my price is seventy five dollars, and you have patron who comes and say I will offer you a hundred dollars if you go bare back and you don’t use any condom. Now this individual weighs now do I use a condom and lose a twenty five dollars. What we need to know is to look at how do we educate the patron, the person coming into the brothel and knowing that hey listen, you are putting yourself at risk because you don’t know what this individual has. If you contract a STI, HIV you’re taking that back home. So it’s how do we reach and primarily it’s the men. We have had difficulties in this country in mobilizing men and engaging men in this kind of dialogue. And that goes the same for the men who have sex with men; because some of the younger msm they are being financed and they are being sought by the older msm. So it’s looking at strategies, the best strategies and looking on how we can bring more men to table and have them realize that you know certain behaviors put you at risk.”

Joan Burke

Burke says while these two groups have been overlooked in the past, their sexual practices have high implications on HIV/AIDS in Belize:

Joan Burke

“These are two populations who because of many reasons are very difficult to reach, hence they will not come forward for services that will aid in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. However, what that does, is that it sends them more underground. It’s not that these populations will discontinue the activity that put them at risk for HIV. When we look at some of the sex workers that we’ve worked with so far, we have sex workers from as far as the Dominican Republic in this country. Ask them how they get in, only god knows. And they are providing services to men in our country who go home to their female partners. So it is not about whether it is legal or illegal, it is about how can we come together to address a commodity that is in demand in Belize and what are the best strategies that we can put in place to reduce the risk of HIV and other STIs in our country and we have to do it in partnership. These are two populations that have been neglected and continue to be neglected and if we have organizations and positions that put these populations even greater at risk, it has even more impact on the HIV/AIDS situation in Belize.”

In order to stimulate safer sexual practices, the findings from the research will be used to guide a concerted and integrated HIV/AIDS prevention plan:

Lara Smith

“We’re gonna be looking to work with all of the players involved to develop effective prevention strategies in moving forward. This is a guide for us to say these are the key behavioral determinants that we need to look at as a nation, how are our messages going to be different,how our packages for prevention going to be different, what  elements are missing, what organizations are involved, who isn’t involved. And also expanding into other key line ministries, the ministry of  immigration, so ministry of finance,  the ministry of education, we need them here to be able to make this effective change.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

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4 Responses for “Safe sex protection on the decrease among two high risk groups”

  1. Edify says:

    The wages/price of sexual sin is HIV, gonno, hepatites etc. It is much wiser to refrain from sin.

  2. Richard says:

    Ministry of health needs to make blood testing compulsory for sex workers because Belizean men will always look for their services. That just the bottomline

  3. Belizean Diaspora says:

    I hate to say it, but Belize and the region needs to take a deeper look as to how to combat this AIDS pandemic, because 30 years after it has been discovered, and it is still around, it is obvious the irrational choices of our leaders back then are not working, which means we have to change our approach to this problem. Many of us would not like what that entails, but those in the majority don’t have any better ideas as to reducing the transmission rate of AIDS, especially among our young people.

  4. Belizada says:

    Edify, your comment is very old fashioned and totally inaccurate. HIV and AIDS passes through homosexual partners, from mother to child and all other ways. HIV/AIDS does NOT DISCRIMINATE. It is true though to fully 100% protect yourself the only answer is REFRAIN FROM SEX because the only SAFE SEX is NO SEX. There is SAFER SEX though to lower your risk. This is part of the education that needs to be spread so that everyone can learn to start protecting themselves. The sex workers have an obligation to themselves to protect themselves and the johns who seek their services should know that it is a risky endeavour to have sex with a prostitute without protection. The responsibility of protection is everyone’s job to do. To say to make testing compulsory for the workers seems to say that there should be no responsibility for the men to protect themselves. That is just crazy talk. A HIV positive person may not test positive in a test in the early stages of contracting so PROTECTION must be used. AIDS spreads because everyone thinks “Its not going to happen to me”, but it is happening and is it worth a bareback sensation for a brief moment of pleasure or spending the rest of your life (that is cut short) dealing with the discrimination and shame that society here places on people who contract these diseases? Think about it.

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