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National AIDS Commission holds workshop

Earlier this year, a study was conducted in order to determine the population size that is living with HIV/AIDS. The study was made possible through the Global Fund Grant at a cost of one-hundred-fifty-thousand US dollars. The University of Alabama and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition conducted the study. Today was the first session in a two-day workshop organized by the National AIDS Commission in collaboration with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition to examine the findings of the study.  Love News spoke with John Waters Garcia, Programme Manager at the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition about the study.

John Waters Garcia, Program Manager, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition: “The study is a mapping study and a population size estimate or MSMs or men who have sex with men and transgender women in Belize and the purpose of this study really is if we don’t know how many individuals belong to a particular subgroup it’s difficult for us to know how well we are doing in terms of programming and our outreach etc. So if for example I think I’ve got a hundred people who are trans in Belize and I’m reaching ten of them then that would mean that I’m reaching about 10%. But if that number is a thousand I’m reaching only 1%. So knowing the numbers is important for programming, allocation of resources and to plan how we deliver in terms of the HIV AIDS response.”

Love News also spoke with Enrique Romero, Executive Director at the National AIDS Commission who explained why the population size- estimate is essential.

Enrique Romero, Executive Director, National AIDS Commission: “In 2014 the Ministry of Health again conducted a mode of transmission study and in that study it was estimated that for subsequent years 67% or 2/3 of the new infections would occur in men who have sex with men so definitely the men who have sex with men is a very high risk group that we need to focus our interventions on hence the reason why the population estimate size study was necessary because we do not have an estimate of the number of men who have sex with men in Belize and if the epidemic is concentrated in this population then we need to study the population to determine the behavioural risks, to determine interventions that can be applied to this particular group for us to monitor the disease in this particular group.”

Garcia said that the results of the study will assist in determining the extent of the HIV epidemic in Belize.