day designed by the United Nations for the awareness and prevention of the epidemic, HIV.

According to an official global report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), it is estimated that 33.3 million people were HIV (+) positive by the end of 2009.

Four decades ago, the presence of the Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) was first detected, and in its peek year, 1999, several deaths were attributed to HIV related diseases.

Joint collaboration by the UN, along with the biggest donor, USA, has helped to spread awareness and foster education on preventative methods; thus, with antiretroviral treatment, UNAIDS reports it has seen, over time, a decline in HIV new infections, but still, the fight to combat the global pandemic continues.

In Belize, the figures for January to the last week in November, 2010, are 275 new reported infections, a number less than in 2009, when the figure was at 365 newly documented HIV infections, according to Marvin Manzanero, MD, and the Director of National TB, HIV/AIDS and other STIs Programme.

Globally, UNAIDS reports that HIV investments are about 22% of all spending in 106 low and middle income countries. In Belize it is estimated that HIV investments are around 1.2% of the total budget.

Manzanero tells our news paper, "We are treating as of this month close to 1,000 persons in Belize, but our investments are not enough; close to 70% of the budget allocated by the government is actually spent on treatment alone. The budget from Ministry is around 1.2% of the total budget."

The National Health Information and Surveillance Unit HIV/AIDS Surveillance in Belize reports, "A total of 101 persons died as a result of HIV infection in 2009, which brings the number dying as a result of HIV infection to a total of 963. At the end of 2009, there were an estimated 5,175 persons with either HIV or AIDS.

"The prevalence rate, however, showed an overall increase in both the Cayo and Toledo Districts, but the greatest increase seems to be in the Cayo District."

As a part of World Aids Day, all 6 districts in Belize held voluntary free HIV testing and counseling, with results being given in half an hour's time.