World Aids Day is being recognized around the world, today, December 1. It is a day set aside with the objective to have people from all walks of life come together and unite in the fight against HIV whilst showing their support for the persons living with HIV and at the same time commemorating the lives of those who have died from the virus. Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. According to the World Aids Day website, while there have been scientific advancements in HIV treatments and laws brought about to protect those affected with the virus and while there is a better knowledge as to how the virus is contracted, there are still thousands worldwide still being diagnosed each year. The site added that World AIDS Day is important because it serves as a reminder to the public and the leaders of the different nations that the virus has not gone away and there is still the need to raise money, increase awareness and fight for improved education and efforts against eradication. The information on the site went on to say that around the world, there is currently an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. On the local front, in Belize, the National AIDS Commission is hosting a symposium in Belmopan, Cayo District aimed at educating youths on the disease. Arthur Usher is the Communications and Program Officer at the commission and he spoke with us on today’s event.
“The symposium is a youth symposium that is designed to keep young people informed and actively engaged in the concept and the idea of their behavior change leading to ending the epidemic by 2030. We’ve invited students from secondary and tertiary level education institutions within Dangriga, Belmopan, San Ignacio and the Belize District to go to the UB Auditorium in Belmopan. We are hosting them under the theme, “Youth Ending the HIV epidemic by 2030″. Our keynote speaker is Dr. Peter Weller from Jamaica, he is a Clinical Psychologist and he is a founding member of the CariMAN Network and he is here to discuss regional and international perspectives on HIV and how best that can fit into Belize’s context. We’ve also had local presenters; Dr. Manazero from the Ministry of Health and Ms.Sherlene Tablada who is a consultant on HIV and we’ve had artists and poets and different people performing and even a young person with HIV who spoke about his life issue. That is basically the gist of the symposium and we hope at the end to have them sign a pledge saying where they are with HIV in their lives. We are also doing free testing here at BFLA but generally throughout the country the Minister of Health along with the National Aids Commission have coordinated and organized all the testing sites, so throughout the country today you can go to different testing sites to get tested for free.”
Usher says the organizers are hoping that those in attendance at the symposium would take back the information and speak more freely on the virus.
A health fair was held as part of the activities in the Toledo District. C orrespondent Paul Mahung stopped by and has the story.
“During official opening ceremony the morning prayer was said by Pastor Ray Jacobs; Welcome remarks by the Vice Chairperson of Toledo AIDS Committee Nurse Marcie Martinez and the vote of thanks was delivered by Toledo Youth Development Officer, Keira Polonio. Guest speaker was National AIDS Committee Toledo Branch Chairlady, Joan Palma.”
“The theme for this year’s World Aids Day is, “Getting to zero, end AIDS by 2030”. World AIDS day 2015 calls for expanding anti-retroviral therapy to all people living with HIV. Today we demonstrate international solidarity for people living with HIV and to the spirit of those who have died or battered in some way because of the deadly disease. Toledo NAC consisting of 15 members are committed to the call in educating and informing the general public in the struggle and the challenge in getting to 0. Today we have with us organizations such as Plenty Belize, Hillside, The Youth Development Department, The Police Department, The Ministry of Health and students participating in today’s activity.
“The World AIDS Day health fair held at the Punta Gorda Central Park was attended by a number of Primary School students youths and adults of the Toledo District.”
Online statistics state that despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. This year, 2015, marks the 27th year that World AIDS Day is being celebrated.