Belize HIV/AIDS infection rate highest in Central America

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 31            August 3, 2000

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Virtually unknown 20 years ago, HIV has now infected over 50 million people worldwide. According to the UNAIDS 2000 global report, AIDS is now the fourth leading cause of death in the world claiming the lives of at least 18 million people, 3.8 million of them being children." These words were spoken by Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development and Women in her address to the House of Representatives last week.

    The Minister further stated "HIV/AIDS has already begun to have a significant impact in Belize-Reports in 1999 indicated Belize as having the highest rate of infection per capita in Central America. In the international arena, Belize is currently in the position Uganda was in 1982-unless we mount an aggressive campaign to fight this epidemic, Africa's frightening nightmare will become our own."

    Minister Balderamos continued that on the upside, "The United States and Western Europe, for example, have been through the phases of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that we are currently experiencing. They are now at a stage of intervention that has been proven to curb the epidemic. Let us not reinvent the wheel but rather learn from their hardships and mistakes. Let us implement strategies that work-peer education, voluntary testing and counseling, mobilizing community leaders and partners, and improving communication about sexuality. When condoms are not used, the prevalence of unsafe sex plus the lack of HIV testing means that many Belizeans do not know just how much they are at risk of contracting HIV. If we do not join hands-in partnership-to inform and educate our people to change current sexual behaviors and practices, this epidemic will continue to claim the lives of many of our loved ones."

    In their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Belize, Alliance Against Aids is doing their part and has issued the following press release explaining.

Alliance against AIDS in San Pedro and Caye Caulker

    Press Release - Alliance Against Aids - July 31st, 2000 - Seventeen nation-wide representatives participated in a three-day workshop from the 28th - 30th of July in Belize City. Alliance Against Aids (AAA) organized and sponsored its first ever training workshop for District Coordinators of AAA.

    Participating from San Pedro were Daniel Acosta, Public Health Inspector; Jazelie Azueta, Health Care Worker; and Liliana Castillo, Peer Counselor. Caye Caulker was represented by Andrea Alcala, a Health Care Worker. At the culmination of the workshop all participants were presented awards certifying each as a trained HIV/AIDS District Coordinator.

    Alliance Against Aids is a non-profit agency dedicated to offering assistance to those suffering from and those affected by HIV/AIDS. AAA is also involved in educating the Belizean public about the HIV/AIDS crisis in Belize as a preventative measure against the disease.

    The workshop featured sessions informing about the analytical situation of HIV/AIDS in Belize, an overview of the National Aids Commission Strategic Plan, facts about HIV/AIDS, caring for people living with HIV/AIDS and proper condom usage training.

    By providing these training courses, Alliance Against Aids intends to further fulfil their mission through the efforts of their certified district coordinators.

    For more information or help for a person living with HIV/AIDS contact: Common Ground, 5766 Meighan Avenue, Belize City. Tel: 02-36493 or call the AIDS HOTLINE confidentially 02-36911 or 02-36912.
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