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Aug 29, 2012

Pan Caribbean partnership’s Study on HIV/Aids

The number of new infections of persons affected with HIV/AIDS has been on the decrease, but for those affected, stigma and discrimination remain the number one hurdle. A conference is taking place on this sensitive issue and the results of a survey show that police and the church are the major perpetrators. Another finding is that seventy-three percent of those who have been diagnosed with HIV have been subject of rumors and bullying. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The intrinsic scorn of persons living with HIV and AIDS in the Belizean society remains the single most crucial obstacle in the way of public action against the pandemic.  Stigma and discrimination, according to the World Health Organization, still exists globally, appearing differently across countries, communities, faith-based organizations and people.

 

Kathy Esquivel

Kathy Esquivel, President, National AIDS Commission

“By 2016 Belize would have significantly reduced discrimination against persons vulnerable to HIV.  So it’s not only persons living with HIV but those who are vulnerable to infection.”

 

To achieve that goal, agencies, such as the National AIDS Commission, involved in the general response to HIV/AIDS awareness, are working diligently to increase public sensitivity on the issue of disparaging victims of the disease.  A recent study, conducted by the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), indicates that fifty percent of Belizeans, who participated in the survey, disclosed to their spouses that they are HIV-positive.  Of the same aggregate, forty-six point seven percent revealed their status to their parents.  According to the results, self stigma amongst persons living with HIV is often the direct result of rejection by those trusted individuals.

 

Martha Carillo, Senior Technical Associate, RSDU

“In Belize, eighty percent, eighty percent reported internalized stigma and this is very important as we try to use this information to develop our programs.  What are we going to be aiming at?  What are we really going to be focusing on internal stigma?  There are great levels of internalized stigma among persons living with HIV in Belize compared with others in the region.”

 

Eric Castellanos is the Executive Director of the Collaborative Network of Persons Living With AIDS in Belize.

 

Eric Castellanos

Eric Castellanos, President, CNET+

“That indicates to us, as an organization of persons living with HIV, that we have to work in empowerment sessions for persons living with HIV; first, to accept our status and to be proud of persons living with HIV to be able to manage our health adequately.”

 

As an advocate, his primary concern is accessing suitable healthcare.

 

Eric Castellanos

“We have been able to expose specific instances of denial of services in the health system, the absence of viral loads in the country.  The specific particular is that we have a viral load machine in the country and it’s not being put to use.  It’s sitting in a storeroom which is actually very bad because we cannot monitor our health adequately.”

 

Martha Carillo

Another poll suggests that roughly seventy-three percent of persons living with HIV have been the subject of rumors, while thirty-four and a half percent have been verbally abused or bullied.

 

Martha Carillo

“This experience promotes their self-stigmatization [and] shame and forces them into isolation to prevent betrayal from other less trusted persons.  If you are the person that I trust and you fail me [then] what can I expect of persons that I don’t know or I don’t know if I can trust?  My sister-in-law goes around saying I have HIV and it impacts me negatively.”

 

Responses to the question of how stigma and discrimination experiences have affected the lives of persons living with HIV include:

 

  • I want to achieve things but cannot because of HIV. However my life has changed dramatically, I have been empowered, stronger and I have been going to workshop to make myself stronger.

 

  • For me I really do not feel anyway… once your family accept it… I do not give a damn; my family know about me so once I get the support from my family which is what I need …I am good to go.” – Transgendered Female

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

The conference concluded today and was organized by USAID Pasca. 

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