On Saturday night, eight representatives from the Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO) visited San Pedro Town to carry out an HIV education outreach program. This program forms part of their Behavior Change Communication activities being held in all the districts of Belize. This process motivates individuals to adopt healthier behaviors through interesting and interactive activities that promote sexual reflection and ensuring that people are correctly informed on sexually transmitted diseases.
PASMO representatives, Caleb Orozco and Marlon Parker, approached over 37 individuals on Barrier Reef Drive between the hours of 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and 1:00 a.m., Sunday morning, inquiring on their knowledge of AIDS and HIV prevention. According to Caleb, PASMO's work also includes getting people to identify types of sex, and asking which types are the ones that pose the highest risks. A part of their outreach included correct condom use and informing individuals that consistency is the key to its 98% effectiveness. "They also need to understand that baby oil is not a proper lubricant because it chemically reacts with latex condoms and erodes effectiveness." Caleb went on to comment, "The correct choice of lubricant is those that are water based." Part of their program also consists of informing the people of the places that offer free HIV testing (the San Pedro Poly Clinic with Health Inspector Bodden).
According to Caleb, residents of "La Isla Bonita" do know the importance of sexual safety and are very aware of the dangers of AIDS. "It is our hope that they will continue to be supportive of our efforts to address HIV which has infected slightly over 2% of our population countrywide," stated Caleb. "It is important to note that the 2%+ prevalence rate translates into over 2,800 people being infected with HIV."
PASMO promoted seven primary behaviors changes which included: 1) abstinence, 2) mutual fidelity and the reduction of sexual partners, 3) correct and consistent condom use, 4) voluntary HIV counseling and testing, 5) testing and treatment seeking behaviors for STI's, 6) the use of water-based lubricants for those who engage in anal sex, and 7) the reduction of discrimination against groups who are vulnerable to HIV. PASMO is a non-profit organization registered in Belize since April 27th under the Non-governmental Organization Act of 2000 and was formed with the objective of preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Particular emphasis has been placed on Belize, Cayo and Dangriga because the largest percentage of those infected with HIV live in those districts; 90%, 4% and 4% respectively. Work has also been carried out in Orange Walk, Toledo and Corozal.
PASMO's headquarters is based out of Guatemala City and has offices in all seven Central American countries. Their parent organization, Population Services International (PSI) is based out of Washington DC, USA. PSI is currently implementing various health care projects in over 60 countries around the world. Among these projects are safe water distribution, nutrition, HIV prevention, malaria prevention, and the prevention and treatment of diarrhea.