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Nov 15, 2006

Cornerstone, UNICEF team to help HIV affected kids

Story PictureThose public education campaigns about HIV and AIDS that we referred to earlier in the newscast often include the fact that many of the people living with the deadly disease are the working class. But tonight we investigate how the pandemic is affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens: our children.

Rana Flowers, Unicef Country Representative
?One of the most underdeveloped countries in the world is Haiti, a conflict riddled country is going to have a lower HIV rate than us. Why? Stigma and Discrimination. Why? Because we adults have not come together and said it?s enough, this is enough. Why are we relegating these people to isolation??

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Belize has come a long way in terms of educating its citizens about HIV and AIDS but actually getting the public to change their behaviour has been another story altogether. It?s a reality that has significantly contributed to the spread of the deadly disease.

According to a United Nation?s Children Fund study in 2004-2005, the behaviour of adults have either affected or infected more than fourteen thousand children. According to UNICEF Country representative Rana Flowers the boys and girls were either infected through mother to child transmission or orphaned when their infected parents died.

Rana Flowers
?Most of the orphan and vulnerable children that we have here in Belize are not themselves infected with HIV/AIDS, but they are living in a household or in a family that has gone underground because of HIV. They might have been living in poverty prior to the disease and HIV just compounds their isolation, it compounds their economic status and it compounds their lack of access to health care, to education etc.?

The Cornerstone Foundation considers the situation a violation of children?s rights. The organization, through its national network of public and private institutions, plans to respond to the needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS by providing comprehensive care and protection.

Anna Silva, C.E.O., Cornerstone Foundation
?We are hoping that we can build this network as strong as we can possibly could. It will take all the different communities in the different districts to get this done. We have had many families come to us in Cornerstone. Most of the time it is either a parent that is dying. We have had seven year old children taking care of mothers dying from HIV, and that was the first case that really spoke to us.?

The care network has already reached out to more than sixty children and their families in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts.

Lenny Alcoser, Community Information Coordinator, CZL.
?We are presently assisting and caring for ten families, of which eight are adults and thirty-two are children. They are provided with food, clothing and other items. Donations are picked up by all members of the team. The staff of Atlantic Bank Corozal request and brought donations so far consisting of about three hundred pounds of clothing and small cash contributions.?

Jacqueline Godwin
?How many children are you assisting right now?

Angelita Sanchez, Coordinator, Collection/Data, O.W.
?Thirty-seven children. These thirty-seven children come out of twelve families. We have been providing food for them, books for them so that they could be able to continue their studies and not stay at home. Right now in Orange Walk we are the services of the Northern Regional Hospital. The HIV test is offered free of cost and the people are coming to do their test and to know their status. What we are seeing is that instead of the numbers going down they are increasing. So the numbers of children infected and affected will go more.?

Unfortunately, the Belize District has been most challenging because of a lack of volunteers.

Anna Silva
?We are getting people who say that they will come in and then nothing happens, so Belize is our challenge.?

Cornerstone is hopeful that an initiative involving secondary and primary school students will bolster efforts in the central region. The students are being asked to donate their school casual day proceeds to the cause as well as contribute clothing and food.

Troy Banner, Coordinator, Caring for Children, Belize District
?Caring for Children is a project that is not political affiliated or religious. Regardless of your background, ethnicity, whatever, we are suppose to support it because regardless of what we are all infected by HIV/AIDS if not directly ? indirectly.?

Cornerstone Foundation Chief Executive Officer Anna Silva says HIV is being spread by stigma and discrimination and?

Anna Silva
?That organizations that are involved or policy makers, whatever you want to call it need to be on the ground. They need to contact small organizations like ours. We need to have people who we can call on where if we do call on them there is a whole lot of bureaucracy you have to go through before you can get any thing accomplished. So we really need to work in that area.?

If you would like to assist in the Caring for Children Belize project you can contact the Cornerstone Foundation at 824-2373.

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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