World AIDS Day observed

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 47            December 5, 2002

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Many join the march for AIDS

Many community members enjoyed the activities organized by the San Pedro AIDS Commission last Sunday in commemoration of World AIDS Day. Held under the theme "Live and Let Live," the global message was conveyed in an effort to end the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.

    Various activities were held throughout the country, including the First National AIDS Conference sponsored by the National AIDS Commission and the British High Commission. In "La Isla Bonita," the activities commenced as early as 7:00 a.m. when many residents, including children, joined in the first-ever march for AIDS. This specific event was held in an effort to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Belize and to show solidarity for those who have died or are living with the disease. The parade, led by San Pedro's newest fire truck, was followed by the talented members of the San Pedro High School Marching Band who added "zing and zest" to the march. A cross section of locals joined in this event, bringing to light that people from all backgrounds of life should be aware of what is happening. The group proudly made their way to Victoria House and on their return visited the San Pedro Lions Clinic for the official inauguration of the San Pedro AIDS Commission information desk. At this point, San Pedro AIDS Commission President Felix Ayuso Jr. addressed the gathering saying that the Commission will only be able to function if it gains the support of the community. He ended by saying, "AIDS is an epidemic that does not discriminate. We should all learn the facts and not pay attention to the many myths that surround this disease." Mayor Alberto Nuñez and Area Representative Patty Arceo were then given the honor of cutting the ribbon. In celebration of their accomplishment, the march participants enjoyed a mouthwatering breakfast courtesy of the Belize Rural South office.

    Later in the day, a health fair took place at Central Park. Representatives from the Belize Family Life Association, the Tuberculosis Clinic, the San Pedro Health Center, the Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO), the Belize Cancer Society, the San Pedro Red Cross, the San Pedro AIDS Commission, and the Medical University of the Americas were on hand, providing information and free-services in their respective fields.   

    According to one of the organizers, the turnout was not as good as expected but they stated that "if at least one person got the message, that is a start." Another disappointment was that there were no entries for the "Live and Let Live" essay contest opened to high school students and other youths ages 13-18. Nevertheless, the younger children were enthusiastic about taking part in an impromptu poster competition, while others had a fabulous time during the volleyball games held by the members of the Medical University of the Americas Community Outreach Program.

    The San Pedro AIDS Commission takes this opportunity to thank all who assisted with the activities for World AIDS Day, especially Nurse Shawmella Kelly and her "crew" who organized the health fair. Special thanks to all the volunteers, all those who donated, and to the participants who, by being involved, are helping to eliminate the stigma associated with and the discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS.
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