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Jul 19, 2012

National HIV Strategic and Operational plans launched

The world’s largest AIDS conference opens in Washington in the next few days. Around the world, more than thirty-four million persons are affected with the AIDS virus. But the good news is that new infections and deaths went down slightly last year. In Belize, the numbers have been going down in the past three years and this morning a plan that sets out a national agenda was launched.  It sets specific goals to stem the spread of the epidemic. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.

 

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

In the coming years, the national response to HIV will be guided by these two documents; the Belize HIV Strategic Plan and accompanying Operational Plan, which were launched today by the National AIDS Commission.

 

Martin Cuellar PhD, Executive Director, National AIDS Commission Secretariat

Martin Cuellar

“The National Strategic Plan is the framework, the map if you will, for the implementation of all of the initiatives in the national response to HIV over the next five years. The strategic plan is the road map and the operational plan is the vehicle we will use to drive on that map to reach us to our goals. So it includes specific outputs and actions. So it’s at the most detailed levels of planning. So we have the specific outputs will be very clear and then all the other steps, the tiny steps that we will take, action are laid out already. The other component of that plan then includes the timeline within which each action should be completed and the principal agency that will implement that particular action.”

 

Martin Cuellar, the Executive Director of the NAC Secretariat, explains that they identified gaps in the current system, which were sorted into three priority areas; ending or preventing new HIV infections, improving the health and well-being of persons living with HIV as well as creating an enabling environment for the implementation of different projects.

 

Martin Cuellar

“In the third priority area, of enabling environment, we identified a great need for more legislation and then a need for change in some current legislation to create an environment to provide support for people who are either living HIV or who may be at risk of catching HIV. In the area of improving the quality of life of people with HIV, we really identified a need for much more education, for and empowerment of people living with HIV so that they can be more aware of their rights, of their legal support that may be available to them and also for them to feel more acceptance of their status so that they can step forward and participate more in the national response. And finally in the first priority area, which is ending new infections, we also say prevention, we looked at a wide range of obstacles that we have and challenges including a need for much more education; education to dispel some of the myths that a lot of Belizeans are still living with, education to teach Belizeans properly about their comprehensive sexual health.”

 

The plans come with four main goals to be accomplished by 2016, including putting systems in place that will help people understand the epidemic.

 

Martin Cuellar

“Reducing the number of people who are dying from HIV by at least thirty percent; focusing heavily on men who are with HIV because we’ve noticed in the past that more men are dying; we’ve looked at halting and reversing the incidence of new HIV cases. So halting and actually reversing and we want to do that not only in the general population, because we’ve already started to do that but we want to do that within the separate subpopulations that we identify as being most vulnerable. The other goal that we set out for ourselves is to minimize, if not eradicate stigma and discrimination.”

 

And according to NAC Chairperson, Kathy Esquivel, statistics have been improving and the measures being implemented will separate what has worked from what hasn’t.

 

Kathy Esquivel

Kathy Esquivel, Chairperson, National AIDS Commission

“The figures coming out of the National AIDS Program, the epi-picture, show that we are doing something right. The number of new incidences is decreasing and has been decreasing for three years. We’re doing something right but we don’t always know what it is that we’re doing right. And that’s why something like the strategic plan and the operational plan and monitoring and evaluation are so important so that we can do more of the things that are having a really big effect.”

 

While the commission is at the forefront, the strategic and operational plans are products of collaboration between several agencies, including USAID Pasca and UNAIDS.

 

Rodel Bertran Pererra

Rodel Bertran Pererra, USAID Pasca

“For USAID Pasca, these documents are already guiding our continued support to the national HIV response. We are committed to working with the National AIDS Commission, civil society and international partners to provide strategic information that will enhance the implementation process. We are particularly interested in providing support to promote human rights for our vulnerable populations, ensuring that victims of sexual violence have access to HIV post-exposure prophylaxis treatment, enhancing Belize’s capacity for monitoring and evaluation of HIV policies and programs and supporting private sector HIV policy development initiatives.”

 

Melissa Sobers

Melissa Sobers, National Program Officer, UNAIDS

“One of the mandates of UNAIDS with support from its co-sponsors is to ensure that national strategic plans of country level are truly prioritized and strategic, integrated into development planning and linked to gender equity issues. To this end, UNIADS, its resident co-sponsors; UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO along with its non-resident co-sponsors, particularly the World Bank and UN Women, found it extremely important to support the strategic planning process in Belize in an effort to ensure that this mandate is realized. As a result, the new strategy is both nationally and internationally recognized and accepted.”

 

The progress of the plans will be tracked by assessments and end of year reports. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

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1 Response for “National HIV Strategic and Operational plans launched”

  1. Rod says:

    The aids infection rate in Belize is way higher than the gov. Is telling you reliable sources say that 40percent of all belizeans now have the aids virus this is very very alarming why is this gov telling a different story this is tragic very tragic.

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