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Nov 29, 2012

Healthy Living explores living with HIV in Belize Pt 1

Each year on December first, people all over the globe commemorate World Aids Day. From 2011 to 2015 the central theme for the activities has been “Getting to Zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” In 2011, Belize had reason to celebrate; the number of new HIV infections had decreased from two hundred and forty-four in 2010 to two hundred and twenty-six. For 2012, however, the celebration won’t be the same, as the numbers compiled up to the beginning of this week are already higher than those of 2010 & 2011 with two hundred and fifty-one new cases so far. The efforts to encourage people to prevent, get tested and seek treatment if positive are continuous and the greatest obstacle continuous to be stigma and discrimination. So what IS life like for a person living with HIV in Belize? For sure, each story is different. Tonight in Healthy Living, we look at two persons with very different stories. Viewers should note that their identities and names have been withheld due to the sensitivity of the topic.


Marleni Cuellar

 “It is estimated that at least five thousand persons living in Belize with HIV. That is only representative of those who actually know their status. While, prevention and know your status campaigns have been going on for decades; there still is a very real fear of getting tested and worst yet, of testing positive.”


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Twenty-five year old “Morton” and forty-six year old “T” have both been living with HIV for over five years. They’re stories and struggles are very different but both possess the same interest of sharing their stories as a lesson to others.


“Morton”, 25, Living with HIV

“My life was almost like the night life, the party life and I use to drink and smoke and also on drugs. And I just started to feel week and my body just run down.”


Marleni Cuellar

“So when you gone to the doctor and they tell you, okay we have to tek wah HIV test. What was your reaction?”



“Well, I never fear I mi tek it. I mi tek it, but when I tek it di first time, ih tell me “poz” and I never believe it because I mi look fabulous and after that I gone back and tek it again and it send back the same “poz”.”


Like many others Morton went through a phase of denial. Spending the first five years after his diagnosis without treatment and continued with the exhaustion of his body.



“I mi gone da family life and from there they put me to the hospital and deh I start to go and get my treatment because when I find out I neva believe so between that whole five years I neva di tek nothing until jumping onto the sixth year I just start to di tek my medication. Doctors say I mi lucky.”


The experience before diagnosis was similar for “T”a mother of four who was forty years old at the time of her diagnosis. She had fallen ill and could not pin point exactly what was going on.


“T”, 46, living with HIV

“I had some doubts, and I said, you know what, this is it. One day I wasn’t feeling well so I went to the doctor and I went to ask them to take an HIV test on me—just out of curiosity I do want to know my status. I do want to know what is going on with me. When I went to take the test, the doctor come back and said, well  Miss T you’re HIV positive. I cried, I hurt.”


Marleni Cuellar

“Did you get angry?”



“I get angry”


Marleni Cuellar

“Angry with who?”



“I get angry with myself for not being more careful. I mean all the while I thought I was very careful.”


Both Morton and T are aware of when they contracted the virus. Morton traced it back to a night of unprotected sex under the influence and T to a common law union.



“Dehn think you mi bad and dah neva true because I neva get like fi seh I dah mi wah bad person di knock bout from spot to spot. Year, sometimes I neva use to use protection, but you know sometimes the alcohol the drugs, you’re mind is not ticking like the clock. So accidents do happen and it could happen to anyone.”



“It’s just like a person who is on medication—who is taking birth control and forget to take their birth control. Things like that happen. Things like that happen. It happens. That’s reality.”


Marleni Cuellar

“Who da the first person you tell?”



“Well, dah my sista dha di closest one to me.”


Marleni Cuellar

“And how you tell ah?”



“I tell ah eena wah angry kind of way cause I mi mad. Dehn time she look pan me and tell me I should tell my mom. I tell ah you think dat dah anything good fi tell my mom.?”



“When I found out I was positive, the first person I told was my church sister; the first, first person.”


Marleni Cuellar

“And what was her reaction?”



“She sat and she cried with me, she prayed, she cried and we talked.”


Marleni Cuellar

“Who did you tell after your church sister?”





T kept her status a secret for some five years, Morton after starting his medication told the rest of his family.


Marleni Cuellar

“You seh even your living situation change when you become positive, what happened?”



“Well from since when my mom get fi find out that I have the HIV, she take away her house key, I stop use her bathroom, the tub, you know like the kitchen utensils, like she put me alone. So like I have to go all the way down the street to get a plate of food or so. I use to bathe inside, now I have to bathe outside.”


A bout a year ago “T” says she got tired of the burden of the secret and decided to disclose to her family.



“Well, I decided to open up to them and the same thing I feared would happened, happened. And I said to myself, I said my God, I have living with this for five years and none ah unu know and yesterday unu come eat outta my pot, unnu come dah my house, unnu siddong, unnu bathe dah my house and do everything with me and because I choose to tell unu, unu start to keep away.”


Her son was the angriest; he had already lost a sister – T’s daughter- who was HIV positive as well.



“He was angry because he knew what his sister went through. He was angry with me—he was angry, I noh wa seh wid me, but he was angry because he didn’t expect this to happen to me; not his mom. Maybe his friends, maybe his cousins but not his mother. But after all is said done, he comes to me and he’s there For me.”


Click here for Part 2

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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4 Responses for “Healthy Living explores living with HIV in Belize Pt 1”

  1. Storm says:

    However people catch this deadly virus, I think they merit our prayers for healing. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    As a nation we need to bang the drum steadily and loudly so sexually active people can know enough to try to protect their lives. Drugs, alcohol, and sex can be a deadly combination when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Morton told me so. Some countries have drastically reduced the incidence of the disease, and our GOB should study how they did it — and then do something to copy them.

  2. verymad says:

    Wow!! Very good story. Very sad but true. The question is. How many people did they contage?. Before and after knowing they had HIV. My prayers go for all the aids victims and family.

  3. nq mercy for murderers says:

    My prayers are with all Hiv and aids victim and their family, however family please don’t turn your backs on your loved ones,it wasn’t their choice or anything it can happen to any one.Turn to God and ask for strength.Think about this Suppose you or he didn’t know and that person got killed how sad and out ragged you would be especially if you didn’t get to say your good byes.continue to lend them your shoulder,talk to them,be there for them,let them know you love them.They told you because they trust you and need your support now more than ever, More than all put your self in their situation how would you want people to treat you?Aids/Hiv is some what almost like cancer right? and you love and support your loved one cancer and all right?Peace and love ps.I don’t have Hiv or Aids or either of my family,but I am speaking from my heart. God Bless.

  4. K says:

    This is a very touching story. Looking forward to part two. We need to start going into the schools and informing these young people about the stereotypes and so forth. Young people these days know alot more than we would like them, they might know about HIV but they dont know how one lives with the virus and how it can affect their lives once not treated. They need to know its a disease to be feared but not scorned, its like cancer, diabetes and any other disease that is uncurable, the only difference is we can PROTECT ourselves from contracting the virus by educating ourselves and our children. T said it right, its just one little mistake anyone can take like forgetting to take your vitamin or birth control, its a consequence we will pay dearly for forgetting. But they also need to know that anyone can lead a normal life once HIV is treated, if we STOP treating HIV patients with such distants and scorn then we will help people to be more open and be more inclined to get tested. The only way we can break such barrier is allowing our people to be open and honest about their status without being judgemental and be open minded. Allow them to lead a normal life thats the only way I see us going to ZERO. It’s a long road ahead but we need to start at the schools and educating people. Show these kids documentaries with people living with HIV and AIDS, let them see how they live, know how they contracted the virus and how they have to live with the disease. Its not a walk in the park, its not an injection we take and it goes away. Thanks T and Morton you took a brave step hopefully the school system finds this topic important to discuss as these are one of the things threatning our generation today. Thanks Channel 5.

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