The National Aids Commission released their 2014 report on Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) in Sexual Behavior and HIV in Belize. The report provides the most recent indicators and trends in prevailing sexual practices among the younger population ages fifteen to twenty four years and existing knowledge and attitude towards sexually transmitted infections in the wider population. The report aims to provide an opportunity for innovation and effectiveness in prevention strategies, particularly those targeted at the younger age. Statistics show that youths who have had sexual intercourse between the ages of fifteen and twenty four was sixty one point two percent and seventy four point four out of school youths between ages fifteen and twenty four have had sexual intercourse. Jacqueline Small, demographer of Statistical Institute of Belize says that youths are beginning to have sex at a young age, putting themselves at risk.
“One of the first things we need to recognize is that young people especially the ones under 20, they are having sex and we also recognize that there are a significant number of young people who are starting to have sex before the age of 15. So, as it relates to those persons and reproductive health services being made available to them, we recognized, immediately that there is an issue because there is a conflict with what the law allows and what is actually happening in reality. So that is something for us to consider because we are seeing that just about 1/10th of the persons under 15 who are sexual active reported that they actually started before they got to 15 years old. So it’s a significant number something that we need to think about.”
Meanwhile, sixty one point four youths between ages fifteen and twenty four who have had sexual intercourse, reported using a condom the first time they had sex.
“Three fifth of the youths reported having used a condom the first time; so that’s good but it shows that only one half of the youths that had sex with more than one partner during the last twelve months had actually used a condom and we know that multiple sex partners is one of the high risk behaviors and while we are seeing that some of them are aware and they are using, we cannot afford to have this gap in this area in particular because as you said this is where a lot of the risk come in. So, we really need to turn up the awareness campaign on this particular issue. It’s all good and well to tell people have one faithful partner, which is a good thing, but then we also have to acknowledge that as the data shows not everybody is doing that. So if you are not doing that, what do you need to do to protect yourself anyway?”
Gustavo Perera, Executive Director of National Aids Commission spoke on the importance of the Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) Study in Belize.
“This KAP Study, as we call it, is a very important study for us here in Belize and at the National Aids Commission because it’s very instrumental for us in terms of reporting our key indicators to the global aids reporting mechanism which consolidates all indicators globally to create a global report but here at the national level it’s important for us because it gives us an opportunity to track the progress that is being made in the HIV response as it relates to key indicators and in this case we are talking about sexual behavior and also knowledge, attitudes and practices.”
The KAP study report for 2014 shows that the mean age for youths between the ages of fifteen and twenty four that had sexual intercourse is sixteen point four years old. These were mostly youths from the Stann Creek and Toledo districts compared to the other districts. On the other hand, those who have not finished primary school, the rates are twice as high which indicates that the longer you stay in school; you’re less likely to begin having sex before fifteen. As well, only one half of youths that had sex during the last twelve months, reported using condoms. The KAP study also showed that there is still a small percentage between the ages of fifteen and forty nine that has never heard of HIV, which was mostly of Mayan descent or ones that have not completed primary school.