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Aug 29, 2006

National Policy on HIV officially launched

Story PictureAfter years of country wide consultations, local officials have drafted Belize’s first National Policy on HIV and AIDS. And as I found out today, that document will play a crucial role in curbing the spread of the deadly disease.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Following months of consultations Belize now has a National Policy on HIV and AIDS. The twenty four page document will provide the framework to work with persons infected and affected by the disease. Reports from 1986 through June 2005 indicate that three thousand one hundred and fifty four persons in Belize have acquired HIV and seven hundred and forty five have developed AIDS. In addition, five hundred and seventy six individuals have died. The good news is that over the past three years there has not been a steady increase in the rate of infections. The plateau is expected to remain for a couple of years before we start noticing a decline. At today?s launch, Acting Deputy Director of Health Services Dr. Paul Edwards says while the data represents a significant achievement in the fight by no means we have countered the disease and should become complacent especially when it comes to responsible behavioural change

Dr. Paul Edwards, Acting Deputy Director, Health Services
?That is really the crux of the matter. How do we incorporate what we know in relation to the prevention and transmission of HIV and AIDS into our sexual activity. That is the challenge we are faced with today. We do know the facts. It is unfortunate that sexual activity is done within the confines and privacy of two individuals and some of us are not there to remind and tap individuals on their shoulders in relation to their responsibility.?

The twenty four page document includes guidelines to remove barriers like stigma and discrimination that have affected the prevention, treatment, care and support of those living with HIV and AIDS.

Ruth Jaramillo, Technical Director, National AIDS Commission
?It continues to be a very big challenge, Jackie, especially in the area of accessing critical services. It is sad that persons living with HIV and AIDS do not come forward do not come forward to get the free medication that is already available in the country. It is also very disturbing that persons are not getting tested and getting to know their status even though they know that HIV is a problem in the country, we are not taking individual responsibility to get to know where we stand in terms of the epidemic, and that test is also offered free of cost.?

At today?s session, the National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS was also launched. That document outlines the response for the next five years with a support network for infected and affected persons, education initiatives and media campaigns.

Belize continues to hold the unwanted distinction of having the third highest rate of HIV infections in the Caribbean region and the highest in Central America. The National Policy on HIV and AIDS must now be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval before it can be signed into law.

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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