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Dec 3, 2013

US Embassy planned internal event to commemorate World Aids Day

World AIDS Day is celebrated on December first every year. That fell on a Sunday, so the US Embassy in Belize planned an internal event to commemorate it today. Staff members were treated to a display and education campaign within the Embassy, carried out by the Pan-American Social Marketing Organization, PASMO. It’s an important occasion every year, creating a heightened awareness of the deadly disease and also promoting recognition of those who live with it. News Five was invited to Belmopan today to join in the event and Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Today staff members in the US Embassy in Belmopan were treated to an up close and personal look at HIV/AIDS – courtesy of an awareness campaign and paraphernalia on display by PASMO. HIV/AIDS is a big deal worldwide, and a bigger deal than we believed right here in our little jewel.

 

Margaret Hawthorne, Charge de Affaires, US Embassy

Margaret Hawthorne

“Currently Belize has the highest HIV/AIDs rate in all of Central America with more than 1.4% of the population affected. However, despite the current challenges that we face in Belize, it is also important to celebrate the important strides that have been made over the past few years.”

 

Those great strides have been facilitated to a great extent by the financial assistance of the US Government – in research funding and direct support for HIV services.

 

Jessica Pfleiderer

Jessica Pfleiderer, Political officer, US Embassy

“The Embassy works in partnership with the local partners including PASMO, PASCA, Capacity International, Charles Drew University and other local partners in order to work on the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDs. The Embassy has a small grant program that we advertise every year that helps build capacity and offers project opportunities to smaller NGOs. We’ve had a history of great success with that, and we through PEPFAR, which is run out of the Central American Regional Program, directly fund more than two million Belize dollars every year to fight the spread of HIV/AIDs in Belize.”

 

Keron Cacho, Program Supervisor, PASMO

Keron Cacho

“The US Embassy definitely has assisted us tremendously. They’ve been our primary funder, as I mentioned earlier, the US government that is. And they’ve always provided us with support and acknowledgement for the work that we’ve been doing. We’re one of the few NGOs that has been out trying to do this initiative and any support that they give us is always well received and we’re happy to be here to promote and to provide information to their staff at hand.”

One of the implementing partners is the Pan-American Social Marketing Organization, PASMO, which has been doing behavior change communications with the most at-risk populations in Belize since 1999. We’re sure you’ve seen their ads every night on TV.

 

Keron Cacho

“Currently we’ve been working on a lot of activities. One is the ‘masculinity’ campaign. I know you guys have probably seen some of the ads on television which focus on the emphasis of males actually taking HIV tests or using a condom while having sexual intercourse. We’ve also done a lot of work with persons living with HIV through the collaborative network C-NET and we’ve also launched a website called And What Now which focuses on the care and treatment for persons living with HIV.”

 

PASMO has also done a lot of mobile testing, providing HIV tests across the country to the most at risk populations. It’s a challenge, because as the statistics show, Belize has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in all of Central America. But PASMO’s Program Supervisor Keron Cacho says there has been some progress.

 

Keron Cacho

“If you look at the statistics data will show you that as the years pass by you have more people getting tested for HIV. Care and treatment is a whole other gamut by itself but I think a lot more can be done in terms of education specifically when it comes to stigma and discrimination because I do believe that has a lot to do with whether a person will take a test or continue through adherence to medications. I think we have a long way to go especially since our mandate…our idea is to get to zero by 2015.”

 

On November nineteenth the US Congress reauthorized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR program so the immediate good news is that the financing efforts by the US will continue. Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.

 

If you noticed a shortage of footage in the story that’s because the event was conducted inside the U.S. Embassy, where strict security protocols regarding cameras were strictly maintained.

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