HIV/AIDS infections in the country have been increasing at an alarming rate over recent years. But over the past six months, the nation’s top tourist destination, San Pedro, with a population of about twelve thousand, has been seeing a steady rise in new cases. That’s according to Medical Coordinator at the island’s Polyclinic, Doctor Javier Zuniga. While he couldn’t offer specific numbers, Zuniga says the data shows that there is a particular group that is now being most affected.

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Medical Coordinator, San Pedro Polyclinic

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Lately we have seen some positive cases and it is alarming because we have had cases where – well before we even do a test we do counseling – and after we do the test we also do counseling, and we’ve noticed that some of these patients, they look normal to you, right, and after we try to find out more information, after we detect that they are positive, we find out that they are sleeping with more than one persons so they have multiple partners. It is becoming a problem. We detect one person, but who knows how many others are out there that do have HIV.”

Marion Ali

“Is there a particular group or category that you see is being infected more with the virus?”

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Actually, when we started off detecting the first few cases we were seeing that it was more with the homosexual community and [uhm].”

Marion Ali

“Men and women, or…”

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Men primarily and it is a problem because a lot of them are saying that they have multiple partners and it’s not looking good and we try to get them to come to do voluntary testing. It has been very difficult and we also have had heterosexual cases but we’re trying to get everyone or anyone to come in and do the test.”

Marion Ali

“When you say the situation is alarming is there a ballpark figure that you’re talking about?”

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“I couldn’t give you a figure, more or less, but it is alarming. Why? Because we have people that are out there who have the virus. They don’t know they have the virus, and I’m sure that there’s a lot of people, not only in San Pedro, probably in Belize City, San Ignacio, in Orange Walk, all bout, but we need to get that done because we live in a touristic area and it won’t be good for tourism.”

Statistically, over the years, Belize as a country ranks among the top countries in Central America with the highest HIV/AIDS cases per capita.

Channel 5