Win-Belize hosts HIV/AIDS forum

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 6            February 8, 2007

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Students from Island Academy and Isla Bonita attended an HIV/AIDS, and Gender Based Violence forum as a follow- up to the Torch Run held late last year.

Some of the media pamphlets and booklets handed out to students.

As a follow- up to the Torch Run, on Wednesday, January 31st, WIN-Belize (Women’s Issues Network) hosted an HIV/AIDS, and Gender Based Violence forum for the public at the Town Hall. The purpose of this activity is to continue to strengthen the awareness of Gender-based Violence and HIV/AIDS and also to promote education. Students from Island Academy and Isla Bonita attended this forum and facilitators for the presentation were Shelmadine Cacho and Florence Goldson - both representatives of Win-Belize.

    People living with HIV/AIDS continue to face stigma and violations of their rights, including bias-motivated violence relating to their status. Furthermore, violence, especially gender-based and sexual violence, puts people at greater risk of HIV infection.

    To be effective, Win-Belize and other sister organizations believe that the responses to HIV/AIDS and Gender Based Violence need to be addressed in the social, economic and cultural dimensions of the problem. The speakers were very informative and clear on the messages they were trying to “get across”. “HIV/AIDS is indeed a deadly disease and its reported cases continue to be a growing epidemic, but one can never be too informed,” noted Cacho.

    The power point presentation included the classification of HIV/AIDS, its adverse effects, ways in which contracting the disease can be prevented, what one can do in case gender based or domestic violence arises, support systems and problems that may be faced. Hard facts were provided to show that everyone can be a victim to this terrible epidemic.

    Pertaining to domestic violence, it was ascertained that help is given to those who put a foot down on it instead of remaining quiet or ignoring the problem. Students were encouraged to report any kind of abuse in the household, with friends, or colleagues. Finally, students were asked to perform a drama depicting the two issues, which was followed by a discussion immediately after to gather data on how the youth grasped both issues.

    After the lecture, the students were asked to evaluate the facilitators and to give their overall perspective on the workshop. Follow up brochures, pamphlets and useful information handouts were given to each student as a form of reference as well as to share with other individuals or with people they know who are affected. “Continued awareness on these societal ills is never enough, we facilitated this workshop because we feel the need to educate people and to have them be aware of things they can do to prevent a situation or report any incidences that are kept in the dark,” noted Cacho. Win-Belize believes that by creating well-coordinated support services, advocating for effective legislative policies and actively promote public awareness, the vision of a violence free community begins to become a reality.

    An extended “thank you” goes out to Isla Bonita Elementary, Island Academy and other individuals that participated in the workshop which proved both informative and useful.
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