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Dec 3, 2009

Healthy Living accesses info on sexual & reproductive health

Story PictureDialogues on H.I.V. and AIDS have become a norm and the issue is no longer skirted. Public service announcements, billboards, and public education campaigns have dispersed information on all aspects of the disease. This week’s Healthy Living looks at how access to information on sexual and reproductive health may assist in preventing major health concerns and looks further at organization with an innovative method of educating.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
The most important link to the prevention of HIV is the access to information; this is incorporated in our sexual and reproductive health rights. The Belize Family Life Association is an organization that works on the frontline in advocating for these rights. Nurse Bulwer is the director of clinical services at BFLA and explains what these twenty-five rights encompass and how it is linked to common public health issues.

Nurse Ivorine Bulwer, Director of Clinical Services, BFLA
“It looks at issues of information and education. It looks at the issue of access to services. It looks at issue of confidential services; confidentiality with the services that they receive, the issue of freedom, equity. It impacts on some public health issues that are really confronting Belize. If you look at teenage pregnancy, it is an issue where young persons are denied information; right information to make healthy choices.”

Sexual and reproductive health looks at the wellbeing of an individual. With a very young population, the right to information is critical because of the number of cases involving cervical cancer, teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.

Nurse Ivorine Bulwer
“You’re looking about failure of the provision of sexual and reproductive rights in the schools because sex—when you talk about sex education it is seen as promoting early sexual activity when its more than that if you’re looking at the whole development, the whole sexual and reproductive development of an individual. If you look at the statistics as it relates to sexually transmitted diseases and infections, if you look at the statistics as it relates to HIV/Aids, if you look at the statistics as it relates to teenage pregnancy; it is a result of unprotected sex.”

Youth officer, Ana Reyes, works continuously with young people in Belize teaching them about their sexual and reproductive health rights.

Ana Reyes, Youth Officer, BFLA
“A lot of young persons, like I said, don’t know that they have sexual and reproductive rights and much less know that there is information available for young persons about their sexual and reproductive health needs. Misconceptions are vast and it can go from they cannot get pregnant before their first period, it can be on their status on HIV and AIDS they still go back and forth with HIV positive and HIV negative. Some of them think positive is good and we know the reality that positive is not a good response. As well as there is still a misconception on an HIV test and an AIDS test. So we have to go back and tell them that an HIV test is an AIDS test.”

To address the misconceptions and lack of knowledge in the youths, the BFLA has created innovative methods of education. From forums, youth groups computer games and even a board game.

Ana Reyes
“BFLA has taken a lot of initiative in getting information to young people as educational as possible as well as making it entertaining. In 2007 we launched a board game competition and the winning game was called ‘Thorns’. We’ve reinvented that game and made it as youth friendly as possible and information friendly as well and ask the young persons to play the game and find out what their responses are. The game encompasses and includes areas of sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy as well as areas of sexual and reproductive health services. The response we’ve gotten from the young people is that they didn’t know the information before so they have acquired or increased their knowledge pertaining to the issues. Other people say its fun they wanted a copy of their own.”

Thorns was launched in 2008 on World Aids Day and is available at BFLA office for sale to the public.

Nurse Ivorine Bulwer
“I get some knowledge of what my body is about; what is normal versus what is abnormal and then the idea is that I need to take certain action if I observe certain changes. Added to that, it also provides me with information. Our youths with information tend to make healthy choices to abstain or when I decide to engage in sexual activity how can I do it in a responsible manner.”

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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