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May 31, 2000

Candlelight vigil highlights AIDS

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Ever since the world first began to understand the magnitude of the global AIDS crisis, authorities have tried to fight the deadly disease across a wide range of fronts. On Tuesday evening concerned Belizeans gathered in the nation’s capital to make a statement of their own.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

In 1986, the first AIDS case was diagnosed in Belize. Today it is estimated that 8,000 persons are infected with the virus and may not even know it. On Tuesday, the National Aids Commission along with health organizations, students and concerned citizens gathered at the steps of the National Assembly to break the silence, to honor every death and value every life in the fight against AIDS.

The government of Belize has become increasingly concerned about the problem as the age group mostly affected by HIV and Aids is 15 to 44 years. But are those who are most at risk, concerned about AIDS and HIV?

Milton Paulino, 16 years old

“My colleagues who I hang out with always talk about AIDS. I am in a youth group with the BFLA and after every meeting, they issue condoms to us and for those of us who are sexually active, use them.”

Teresita Ramirez, 14 years old

“We talk about what we would do if we would catch it, and try think about ways to prevent it.”

Jane Roches, 17 years old

“No, they aren’t concerned about the problem.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Why is that? What is happening.”

Jane Roches

“Well the reason why is because they go and have sex at a young age and they might not know who has the disease. Then they end up having AIDS and sometimes they don’t know they have it and they would go spread it.”

Jacqueline Woods

“How do you go about spread the message?”

Ciani Gonzalez, 17 years

“Well it go through NDACC, the National Drug Abuse Control Council. Sometimes they talk to us about it, but it still doesn’t work.”

Letticia Velasquez, 18 years old

“And also sister always said that condoms are not a good protection. The best protection is not to have not sex?abstinence.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So the young people in Dangriga are sexually active?”


“Yes, very”

Letticia Velasquez

“They have some young girls right now that are getting pregnant and some of them are infected. And these young born children–the innocent ones–are getting infected too.”

Franklin Narciso Caliz, speaking to crowd

“I am a human being infected by a virus no different than any other disease…”

50-year old Franklin Narciso Caliz, a former teacher is one of those persons who is living with the disease. Franklin was diagnosed shortly after his wife fell ill and died of AIDS in 1995.

Franklin Narciso Caliz

“I did not feel so well, I got sick at that time. I wasn’t sick, but I got sick at that time; I felt bad. I felt like my brain was stuffed right up. I felt cold sometimes, I felt hot at other times. I just felt different from my usual feeling.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What has the public response been like since you’ve come out?”

Franklin Narciso Caliz

“I’ve gotten a lot of help. We had some Peace Corps who were working along with me and they helped me. They took me to Washington State and tried to find as much medicine as possible, the real new type of medicine and stuff like that. I went to California and the doctors there were very helpful and I went to Oregon too and the doctors there were helpful, they helped me a lot. This is the reason why you see me so strong today.”

The problem has also been hard on the families who have had to face irrational rejection from the community at large. Marie Ysaquirre’s 25-year old son Ian, died of Aids in 1995. Today she has become strong advocate in the fight to promote prevention and education about AIDS.

Marie Ysaguirre, Mother

“My greatest desires right now is to get into the primary schools, to speak to the children. Boys and girls, not necessarily only girls, but the boys and girls in the primary school. At the moment, we have been getting…I have been having interviews and lectures and so on at the college level. But I would like to get into the primary schools.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“No one is immune from this disease unless we take the necessary precautions. Unless we are educated on how to avoid getting AIDS. And so rather than us going down the path of leaving things the way they are and having to buy very expensive drugs that indeed to not provide a cure anyway, but simply provide solace, to those who are afflicted. The best way to fight AIDS is to prevent AIDS. Prevention is always better than cure and this prevention comes through education like so many other things. It is through education that we must reassert our freedom and our gentle living as a people in Belize.”

In January, the Government of Belize established the National Aids Commission. Dolores Balderamos Garcia is the minister of Human Development, Women and Civil Service. Garcia also chairs the NAC.

Jacqueline Woods

“What is being done for people who have AIDS and who are infected with HIV?”

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“We have been working…well our Human Development departments in the different districts work with interventions for the people who need those interventions. But we are working closely with Alliance Against AIDS. They are referring some of the people who are suffering from full-blown AIDS to the department and we are helping with medicines and clothing and just general nursing care and attention. As you know, one of the big challenges that we have is that people suffering from full blown AIDS, many times are rejected by families, rejected by the community and we have to alleviate some of that suffering.”

Garcia says the only way we can win the fight against AIDS is through the promotion of healthy living and prevention.

It is estimated that over 1,300 people took part in the Candlelight Memorial Vigil. Aside from Prime Minister Musa and Minister Balderamos no other elected members of the government or opposition were in attendance.

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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