Friday, April 26, 2013

The Prevention Summit- A Civil Society Act of Health and Rights Action

25th April, 2013

Today, 60 individuals joined in a three day seminar to look at new research for most at risk population including men who have sex with men, sex workers, adolescents etc. Day one looked at the strong human rights framework under which prevention must occur and the contradictions of Belize having strong policies and signing on to international treaty obligation, but failing to systematizing its strong human rights framework on paper into practice. Of note the Executive Director, Dr. Martin Cuellar of the National AIDS Commission spoke at lengthen to the issue of stigma and discrimination and the work we are doing here at UniBAM. Part of the the speech said:

We now know that one population has over ten times more prevalence of HIV than any other population in Belize. Nevertheless, the NAC nor the CCM and not even the Informational Educational and Communication Committee has never sat down to discuss this fact and strategise a response. We simply must mainstream the reduction of stigma and discrimination into each agency agenda.

It isn't enough for us to simply write a one sentence email of compassion when Caleb circulates more new evidence of institutional stigma in Belize. We must now take our compassion to the public, in our press releases, in our organizational work plans, in our conversation at the NAC meetings. Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for us...A few of us from the planning committee have decided to put our words into action and are planning on being there as a message to Belize that Caleb does not stand alone and that the stigma and discrimination...affects all of us and that we are all demanding positive change.

Of note, we had 20% of the participants being gaymen. The data revealed that we have a 13.9% prevalence rate for HIV, it revealed that behavior change communication is much more complex than improving knowledge, it points out that with the absence of rights it has a direct link to current health investments made in targeted interventions. Sergio Montelegro, presented REDCA study on risk profile for persons living with HIV and profiled Belize. The report pointed out that 7% of women cumulatively reported being bisexual or lesbian that were samples of the  Health centers vs  25% cumulatively, of men, self-identify as (16%)bisexual or (9%) homosexual  who were part of the sample taken at health centers. For those who were polled at health centers about the question during the last 12 months, have you had same gender sex, homosexual or trans? 30.64% said yes vs 51.72% of those polled at home. The data suggesting that same sex activity happen more frequently than we realize in Belize. Special guest to the meeting is Kent Klindera from AMFAR fo New York noted on the right with laptop. The note is important as AMFAR has a a history of supporting HIV related projects around the world for men who have sex with men.



 




Ultimately, the youth presentation sum it up best in this quote" give wi straight!" What the system have failed to do is look at barriers to access services like age to access services without parental approval, like censoring of health information in the church state education system, like the insistence that the church needs to be engaged in sex education discussion. I remain concern that that such a position, will elect the church system to define our public health approach, cement the continue oppression of LGBT citizens, young people right to full disclosure and discourage women from family planning as a choice. There is a reason why our poverty rate is 43%, our national prevalence rate is 2.1% for HIV, why teen pregnancy remains high and why MSM study reveal we have a concentrated epidemic. Its because the churches have been allowed to not only influence our public health approach, but the invested resources as well. Will bring you day two tomorrow.


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