Belize Reduces Incidence of HIV AIDS and Focuses on Most at Risk Populations

Belize Reduces Incidence of HIV AIDS and Focuses on Most at Risk Populations
"Together We Can" Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit produced to Enable Peer Education.

According to the "UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic" of 2010, Belize has the highest HIV prevalence in Central America and the 3rd highest in the Caribbean, with estimated adult prevalence of 2.1%, and more than 4,800 people living with HIV. And AIDS is the leading cause of death in the 15-49 population. Young persons constitute an important vector to HIV transmission, due to lack of HIV prevention education and Behavioral Change Communication and negative stigma and socio-economic circumstances, causing continued risky sexual behavior patterns.

Belize has made remarkable progress in reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Highlights

  • “Together We Can” Life Skills Pilot Succeeds
  • Peers now Reached by Teen Peer Educators
  • Life Skills Club is Established by trainee in first and farthest school where TWC program is implemented

In fighting HIV/AIDS, new infections of HIV are down. In 2009, the total number of newly diagnosed HIV Infections was 365, indicating a relative decrease of 14 per cent from 2008. There is also progress in access to treatment and coverage rate, which has increased from 48.7 per cent in 2007 to 50 per cent in 2008, and to 62 per cent at the end of 2009. Moreover, 89 per cent of pregnant women receive HIV testing, and 48/52 of newborns receive prophylaxis.

UNDP has supported targetted actions, contributing to this success in recent years, with its thematic trust fund and as principal recipient of the Global Fund Round 9 Grant.  These actions have helped in tackling the challenge of insufficient public awareness initiatives on HIV/AIDS and against HIV stigma.

Of great value to improving public awareness is the "Together We Can" (TWC) program - an HIV Peer Education program that the Belize Red Cross, one of the partners in the Global Fund project, had adopted in 2004 and has since revised to make it a more relevant to Belizean Culture, and in particular the youth.

Following piloting of the TWC materials, several tiers of persons were trained, beginning with school and health counsellors, then peer educators in the high schools, who have been reaching out counselling and educating their peers for improved life choices.

With the successful conclusion of the “Together We Can” life skills training pilot project, the three tiers of training is now expanding to high schools in the other four districts – Corozal, Orange Walk, Cayo and Stann Creek.

Notably, Belize was asked to participate in a global consultation to document the coordination and management of the national response to HIV AIDS; a comparative experience paper documenting good practice and success in national AIDS coordination in six countries.