vlcsnap-2013-03-20-21h14m35s252Various health partners are working together to inform Belize’s teenagers on the importance of sexual health. One important weapon in the fight against HIV and teenage pregnancy is the media, and there was a launch this morning for two commercials targeting specific audiences. First, here are the facts on Belize’s HIV and teenage pregnancy. Dr. Marvin Manzanero  is from the Ministry of Health’s.

Doctor Marvin Manzanero – Ministry of Health:
vlcsnap-2013-03-20-21h05m16s208Not an increase, the numbers have remained fairly consistent. There is actually a decrease in the number of new infections in females in that age group, but our target is 0. As a country, we have established a target of 0 new infections by 2015. So we are specifically doing a prevention strategy for that specific age group. I think one of the key messages is that we are trying to delay the initiation of sexual activity.

According to Dr. Manzanero there is a direct link between early sexual activity and the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and HIV infection. In Belize girls as young as 10 years old have gotten pregnant, and the average of first sexual experience is generally about 12 or 13, being the onset of puberty. Dr. Martin Cuellar of the National AIDS Commission points out that in light of all the risks associated with teenage pregnancy including health complications, stress, socio-economic factors and others, young people are better off waiting until they are prepared and mature enough to meet these realities. And while abstinence is the safest way not only for teenagers, but any unmarried person, their campaign to adults is different. Doctor Martin Cuellar discusses how the commercials will target specific audiences.

Doctor Martin Cuellar – National AIDS Commission:
vlcsnap-2013-03-20-21h07m36s196The commercials in one campaign would run at a certain time of the day or associated with certain programs that we expect the target audience would be interested in or would be watching or listening to. The separate campaign which is called “Choose and Use” is targeting a more adult audience that is already sexually active and that campaign them the message of reducing the number of sexual partners as well as consistent condom use. The logo for that is two fingers together, meaning you try to choose a live partner, but even though you make that choice, you commit to consistent condom use. So that would be again aired in programs and at times when we anticipate that particular age group above eighteen years old would be watching television or might have access to that message. So that’s the separate message for the separate audience.

Dr. Cuellar goes into some of the latest statistics.

Doctor Martin Cuellar – National AIDS Commission:
One of the reasons why we think it is very important for us to start as early as eleven years old with our messaging for young girls and boys is based on the evidence we have from the Ministry of Health that speaks to the sexual and reproductive health of our young people and we are alarmed by statistics as high as twenty five percent of live births being given by young girls under the age of twenty. We have up to twenty five percent of neonatal deaths – that’s death to young babies within the first twenty eight days of births and to mothers below the age of twenty. We have up to sixteen percent of all the abortions are to young ladies under age of twenty. We have twenty five percent of low birth weight – those are babies that born with their weight under normal, again up to twenty five of such babies are born to mothers under the age of twenty.

The project is being funded with support from the Global Fund. Other additional reaching out activities planned to raise greater awareness will include appearances on social media.