Belize Observes World AIDS Day with Health Fair and Awareness Activities

Belize Observes World AIDS Day with Health Fair and Awareness Activities

Today, Belize joins countries around the world in celebrating World AIDS Day. The global event is used to highlight the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and raising awareness about AIDS, which has claimed millions of lives. The Ministry of Health and Wellness held activities countrywide to mark the occasion. In Dangriga, a health fair was organized at the Belize Family Life Association compound on Ecumenical Drive. Love News spoke with Vana Petillo, a social worker and HIV councilor at the Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga, who spoke on what the fair entails.

Vana Petillo, HIV Program Coordinator, Southern Regional Hospital: “Basically what we’re doing is that we’re promoting HIV testing which is free. We’re also doing Hepatitis testing, Syphilis testing. With us here we have different government departments. We have the youth services, we have NDAC, we have the TV department, we have HECOPAB, persons can come out do thier glucose check, check for hypertension along with receiving different other services that we have here. For the past couple years we have seen an increase in HIV among young persons especially among young people. However that does not mean that older persons are not being diagnosed with HIV however the young people are the ones who are being more diagnosed and especially females and we encourage males to get tested because we know that males do not like to come out and seek health services. They usually access health services when it’s too late so we encourage our young males, our older men, our middle aged men to come out get tested know your status.”

There was a similar event in Punta Gorda at the Central Park. Rafael Castillo, Community Engagement Officer for the PG Community Hospital spoke to Love News about the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, and the efforts of the ministry and its partners to incorporate the theme into the activities being held.

Rafael Castillo, Community Engagement Officer for PG Community Hospital: “Today we’re celebrating the event under the theme, Let Communities Lead. So we’re out here doing outreach health education and testing along with our stakeholders to actually engage the community, to see how we can get the community to lead the response to finally one day putting an end to this epidemic. Apart from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Toledo District Health Services we have Hillside Clinic who is here with us doing blood pressure and blood sugar reading and we have Humana which is here doing the outreach as well and we have, very importantly, the Cancer Society, who is out here doing some outreach activities as well.”

Meanwhile, in the north in Orange Walk Town, there was a related event at the Fort Cairns Market Plaza. Merlene Torres, social worker for the ministry’s Northern Health Region, urged people to know their HIV status as a part of maintaining their holistic health.

Merlene Torres, Social Worker, Northern Health Region, Ministry of Health and Wellness: “This event is celebrated the first of December because the World Health Organization did a donation to help in the treatment of people living with HIV because the numbers were rising drastically of people that were getting the virus. The importance for people to know their status and come out and do their test for HIV is because if the virus is detected in an early stage the treatment can be done and the persons won’t necessarily reach AIDS or any opportunistic infection and the importance is because you don’t know the people around you. HIV cannot be seen. You won’t see the person, a lot of the people living with HIV you won’t know if they are positive or not so it’s very important for you to do this test, check on your health, on your sexual health is just as important as your mental and physical health. Knowing your status can help you take care of yourself and the persons around you also.”

World AIDS Day has been observed since 1998.

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