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Dec 1, 2005

HIV infected persons: We want love

Story PictureIn more than a hundred countries around the world, today, December first is being celebrated as World AIDS Day under the theme: Make the Promise! Keep the Promise! Prevent HIV/AIDS. Here in Belize, church bells tolled at ten this morning in observance of the millions who have died from the deadly disease. Belize’s infection prevalence rates are currently the third highest in the Caribbean, but as News Five’s Janelle Chanona discovered, Belizeans have yet to grasp the gravity of the impact HIV/AIDS has on the country’s emotional and economic well being.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Lighting the ?candle of hope? was just one of the official activities marking World AIDS Day in Belize.

Despite what experts call an accelerated reaction in the national response to HIV/AIDS, latest statistics indicate a growing number in reported HIV cases in Belize.

Paul Edwards, Dir., Epidemiology Unit, Min. of Health
?There is still that sense of invincibility that is there in our community. It can happen to everyone and it cannot happen to me. To the numbers keep increasing, but we have to wait until somebody dies from my family or your family for us to recognise that this disease is here.?

And according to people with the disease, fear, stigma, and discrimination continue to be the most painful symptoms of HIV/AIDS.

Jennifer Moguel, Poet
?The way they whisper at my sight,
And talk behind my back.
Just so they feel safe, feel brave.
Oh trust me, they?ll attack.
I?d be lying if I said I never expected that,
But the humiliation, unbearable.
I took it as I silently sat.
After sitting in silence, now you?ve heard me.
But I won?t be silent anymore.
Not about HIV.
All I want from people is a friendly hand, a hug.
Belizeans, please understand,
Only fighting together can the nation survive.?

With that reality in mind today, the Musa administration officially gave its support for the draft National AIDS Policy.

Prime Minister Said Musa
?The policy will give teeth to the fundamental guiding principles of non-discrimination, individual and collective responsibility, voluntary counselling and testing, and confidentiality which are the four cornerstones of what we believe is the sound foundation that will guide future legislation and programme development. The policy will be fundamental to reduce stigma, and discrimination for Belizeans.?

Rodel Beltran Perera, Executive Dir., Alliance Against AIDS
?Yes there is suffering, but we can turn it around and we need to start looking at it now as life, as living.?

According to Rodel Beltran Perera, number one on the wish list for persons living with HIV and AIDS is love and attention.

Rodel Perera
?They want to put an end to the ill treatment, the violations against them, they want to live better. That I think is paramount to what they are telling us, they are tired are being ill-treated. They are people and they need to be treated as people.?

But more disturbingly, today there is little or no information on how HIV/AIDS is affecting our most vulnerable citizens: our children.

Rodel Perera
?That attempt at gathering the information on the children, is very, very important. Children who are infected, and affected, working very closely with the National Committee for Families and Children, the National AIDS Commission, as well as UNICEF to see what, where, they are, that sort of thing. But a great concern, I?m glad that it has been brought up and we need to look very closely at that population, which has nothing to do with it, but are… you know, being born with it and then living, if the services are right in this country, up to seven years old, we gotta do better than that.?

Donna Lisa Pena, Caribbean Epidemiology Centre
?We talk about commercial sex workers, we talk about persons in same sex relationships, but what of the children who are being born into HIV/AIDS. They certainly don?t have that lifestyle and we certainly can?t forget them in our response, they are the future of our countries. We know that productive capacity of persons in Belize are being affected; persons fifteen to forty-nine years old. If you think older people are making bad decisions, you are not only losing your current capacity, but in that pool, you have a number of young people and you are losing the future capacity of your country to respond.?

Yolanda Simon, Caribbean Network of P.L.W.H.A.
?We need to make our personal commitment to the fight. This is not for the health care providers, not for the doctors, not for the Ministry of Health; it is for all of us, each and every one of us individually. But just imagine collectively, what we can do together so we need that commitment now, not World AIDS Day, everyday.?

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

As part of activities today, PAHO’s Technical Advisor Sandra Jones presented the Ministry of Health with a handbook entitled “A Regional HIV/STI Plan for the Health Sector.”

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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