Regional HIV Testing Day
Today is Regional HIV Testing Day and testing booths were set up behind the Scotia Bank to commemorate this day. Now, there are a number of commercials and a series of awareness campaigns geared towards educating the public on HIV. But is it working? Is the message being effectively communicated? According to the National Aids Commission, it is. Today the Communications and Program Officer, Arthur Usher discussed the progress so far and other approaches used to encourage people – especially men - to get tested.
"This is a major part of what helps people to understand the importance. We do multiple variation of out reaches, it's ongoing throughout the year. Big events like this are usually for us is twice a year which is June and world aids day. The organisation like BFLA and PASMO and ministry of health and all these organisations - they're consistently educating people and consistently out reaching. So it's throughout the year and the impact has been felt. What we are doing is called bring a man campaign. The person who bring the most men gets a gift at the end of the day. And for the first 25 men this morning got a official regional testing day mug. So again that's something to kind of change the mentality and work with people to get prizes. We also have 2 social medial competitions that we're doing. We have a selfie competition and 30 to 60 second video competition. And you can just take a selfie with a little caption and upload it to our facebook. You could win up to 500 dollars for first price and 250 for second prize."
Lincoln Kelly - Knows his status
"I think it very important for men get tested because what we notice that it's mostly women come out and take tests. We think it's very important for the guys because the guys are at a very high risk. The only way we could know is by people coming out and taking the test so we could better address the situation so it doesn't get out of control."
While HIV was the main focus of today’s activities, what about other sexually transmitted diseases? Well, according to the Program Supervisor of PASMO Belize – these diseases are very much linked to HIV and must be addressed.
Keron Cacho - Program Supervisor, PASMO Belize
"I think it’s very important we always keep the population of our country aware basically of all the sexual transmitter infections that are out there. Because even though it's overshadowed by exactly the amount of HIV infections, they're still very much prevalent. STI's like herpes and gonorrhoea is very prevalent. A lot of people put a lot of attention in regards to HIV infection, however the STI's - like for instance an individual would go to the doctor and say they want an HIV test and they feel quite happy when they get negative results. But at the end they could also be suffering from stuff like gonorrhoea and not treating that. And if you have an untreated infection, a STI, it can actually lead or it could be much more easier for you to actually contract HIV eventually."
"We have tried our best over the years to do a lot of investigations to see exactly how we can spread the message across. So we've utilised a lot of I think very fun and colourful promotional items. T-shirts that would have special messages that bring about awareness. Again, not only for HIV for STI's. We also try to get promotional items that can at the same time be utilised as an item but spread the right messages across. We have a variety of condoms here, we have condoms for oral and also penetrative sex and we are also displaying the lubricants. There are a lot of myths with the use of lubricants. It's very important when you are talking about sexual transmitter infections and proper protection against HIV and some of the STI’s.”
A 6 week nationwide HIV testing campaign was also done before today’s event. Similar activities were also organised in Orange Walk.