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Nov 30, 2007

City wide events commemorate World AIDS Day

Story PictureAs part of our continuing coverage of the activities leading up to World AIDS Day on December first, today our crews travelled across the city to highlight the various events. We’ll begin at the Belize City Council where this morning, elected officials held the public signing of a document that HIV experts feel is an important aid in the fight against stigma and discrimination. It’s called a Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS and according to Mayor Zenaida Moya and Councillor Responsible for HIV, Wayne Usher, the document is CITCO’s commitment to protect their almost three hundred employees.

Zenaida Moya, Belize City Mayor
“The purpose of the policy on HIV and AIDS is to provide support and care, to protect jobs and confidentiality of the Belize City Council’s employees. As a part of the Council’s manifesto, the Belize City Council pledged to work with partners in HIV and AIDS.”

Wayne Usher, Councillor Responsible for HIV
“This is now in black and white that the council will protect the rights of people who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. We will not discriminate, we won’t tolerate it, we will make sure that they are treated humanely and with respect. … To make sure that the policy has teeth, that we mean what we say, there is a clause in there that will put penalties on those who discriminate wilfully against employees of this council who are affected by HIV/AIDS.”

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Chair, National AIDS Commission
“Although there is a National Workplace Policy promulgated by the government on HIV and AIDS, it is important that each entity do their part and have their own policy and so Madam mayor and your council and all your employees, congratulations are in order for taking the leadership to the make sure that the City Council has this policy within its doors and will do everything that is necessary in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”

Signing the Workplace Policy along with Mayor Moya and Councillor Usher were Human Resource Manager Efrain Novelo and Acting Labour Commissioner Hertha Gentle.

And while the City Council was signing their workplace policy, the students of St. Catherine’s Academy were participating in their own awareness activity. News Five’s Kendra Griffith explains.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Dressed in red and white, this morning the staff and students of St. Catherine’s Academy converged on the school’s lawn to form a human HIV ribbon.

The ribbon was the brainchild of guidance counsellor, Marlen Trujillo, and was part of official activities commemorating World AIDS Day.

Marlen Trujillo, Guidance Counsellor
“I thought it was gonna be simple, just form out the ribbon and the girls stand in place. I went to National AIDS Commission with the idea and Alyssa Noble just took it from there. They hired an architect to map out the ribbon, so we had an architect here on Thursday to map out the ribbon and the girls did a test run yesterday and this morning at eight-thirty the helicopter passed for some aerial shots and we had our ribbon quite formed out.”

But that wasn’t all they did … because this year’s theme is “Youths Take the Lead” the school hosted a health fair in which HIV organisations set up display booths to share information with the students.

Marlen Trujillo
“Unfortunately, statistics show that young people, especially females are the ones being infected more and because we are an all girls Catholic high school and we thought what’s best not to show it as opposed to having them coming here and educate our girls.”

Kesilyn Lizama, 4th Form Student
“Some people they don’t know very much about it, but if they come to the forums like these and go to the different mini fairs that they have, they are better informed and I mean, they won’t necessarily go and continue spread it and be wide spoke persons, but they pass it to a friend, that friend passes to another person and information gets around.”

Rasine Gillett, 4th Form Student
“We need to tell our own youth’s what’s happening and what we need to do take a stand and protect ourselves against these things.”

Marlen Trujillo
“If we don’t take the lead, then we are just gonna sit there and have this thing happen to us. By them taking the lead, they say, ok, we are gonna put a stop to it as of now.”

This afternoon the students of S.C.A. joined their peers from other high schools across the city in Youth Fest, an event designed to specifically address young people through music and drama. The young women and men took over Yabra Green and teamed up with the Women’s Department as it officially opened its Sixteen Days of Activism to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence campaign. Before participants headed off on a parade through the principal streets of Belize City, organisers shared the message behind the event.

Icilda Humes, Acting Director, Women’s Department
“This year we decided that we needed to be a bit more vocal and so we’re not parading through the streets in silence holding candles, we’re going to make a lot of noise, going through the streets of Belize today, speaking out, shouting out that we have absolutely zero tolerance for violence against women.”

Marion Ali
“Think that will make a difference?”

Icilda Humes
“It has made a difference. If you continuously cover the Sixteen Days of Activism over the years, you will see that the response has now reached a point where we have more and more men being a part of the fight to end violence against women. … It’s not gonna make a drastic change overnight but it’s a stepping stone that will gradually lead to the overall change.”

Marion Ali
“Have many men turned up to take part?”

Icilda Humes
“Well look around and you can see most of them wearing their shirts and they have told us, “we ARE real men, real men that don’t have to abuse our wives to be real men.”

Tashera Swift, Organizer, Belize Youth Fest 2007
“Women who are victims of domestic violence often times they don’t have that ability or they’re not empowered enough to let their abuser stop the abuse. Often times the abuser might force the females to have sex and in that way there is the possibility of the female being sexually abused and coming in contact with the virus and maybe through that, sexual abuse. It’s not only for females, but also looking at that but also child sexual abuse and exploitation where through unprotected sexual contact there’s the possibility of HIV transmission occurring.”

Ponciano Reyes, Participated in March
“I’d want other men be like me, same way like me. I’m a man that love to treat women the best I could. For instance this afternoon my wife tell me she want me to go buy a gallon of Clorox. When I remember now, the shirt marked “I’m a true man” so I have to go buy it for ah. … I married about twenty odd years now.”

Marion Ali
“Not even unintentionally?”

Ponciano Reyes
“Will we have our little misunderstanding, we quarrel but nothing serious, because a minute afterwards we come back sweet again.”

The theme for the Sixteen Days of Activism is “Demanding Implementation, Challenging Obstacles, End Violence Against Women.”

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