The National Aids Commission recognized partners who helped make the organization’s first National Testing Day possible. The event was held in June and according to Enrique Romero, the Executive Director of the Commission, the event was successful thanks to their support. He adds that it is a good indication as the Commission moves forward in its work following the reduction in funding from the Global fund.
Enrique Romero, Executive Director, National AIDS Commission: “It’s very important for us, it’s very significant for us because we take the opportunity to honor and to show appreciation to those entities that partnered with us this year for national testing day and to tell you that it indeed was a success because our targets for the testing day was 1,200 persons, we ended up testing over 1,700 persons.”
Reporter: In going forward what does this kind of partnership mean for the work on HIV/AIDS in Belize?
Enrique Romero, Executive Director, National AIDS Commission: “As international funders start to decrease their funding to countries, including Belize, it gives us an opportunity now to start to really put our efforts into research mobilization and that is exactly what we did in this particular national testing day. For the past ten years ScotiaBank was the sponsor for regional testing day and last year that came to an end so at the National AIDS commission we saw it as an opportunity for us to mobilize resources and embark on our first national testing day. So this national testing day that we had in June was fully financed by the country itself and that can only be possible through the public-private partnership so it has to be done that way.”
Reporter: From this first experience do you think it’s going to work and the response will be there?
Enrique Romero, Executive Director, National AIDS Commission: “I certainly hope so and like I said I sounded the call earlier for other entities to come on board. Last year was our first year that we had Digicell to come on board, we had BNE, we have Atlantic Bank so we sounded the call for other organizations to follow suit and to partner with us and so it’s always rewarding when we have other organizations who share the same vision of the National AIDS Commission which is service delivery to the most vulnerable populations.”
Romero adds that the National Testing Day analysis shows a difference in the public’s response to HIV testing.
Enrique Romero, Executive Director, National AIDS Commission: “We tested over 1,700 persons and for the first time we tested more males than females, not by a lot but we did test more males than females. If I’m not mistaken from the 1,700 persons that were tested we had I believe it was six positives so the next step for those persons is that they are referred to a laboratory where the test are done again in the lab to confirm and once that is done then they are linked into the care which is exactly what we want. We want people to get tested, know their status, if you’re positive then you are linked directly to the healthcare system and ensure that you are on medication, you get the counseling you need and you get the full support that you need and that is exactly what we want because only by being on the medications you can live a healthy life and you can also help in reducing the transmission of the disease. The numbers may look very small but it’s very significant because if you look at the continuum of care that speaks to diagnosis, link to treatment and viral suppression that is the first step in that continuum to get people tested so if we can improve the numbers of people getting tested, knowing their status then that will help the country tremendously.”
At this morning’s short ceremony, the Commission gave customized paintings by local artists to those who partnered with them.