Belize fully aware of the deep impact of HIV/AIDS across social, economic and development spheres

Pablo Marin

Many of the global trends of HIV and AIDS are mirrored in the national experience of Belize: declining infection rates, increase in access to treatment, increasing feminization of HIV and with the age group 15 – 24 year continuing to be the major age group affected with new HIV infections.

That's what Belize's Minister of Health Pablo Marin told the recent high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS, held here at UN Headquarters in New York.

He said the government of Belize is fully aware of the deep impact of HIV/AIDS across social, economic and development spheres, and knows how that impact is magnified in a small diverse population –thus presenting unique challenges.

TAPE: Nevertheless my government remains firm in its commitment to a national response that is sustained and effective. Even though Belize has the highest prevalence rate of HIV in Central America and one of the highest in the Caribbean, much has been done, particularly, in the latter part of the last decade. Our response has been immediate, targeted and dynamic, including a multi-sectoral partnership, robust policies, and international support. At the end of 2010, there were an estimated 5,394 persons living with either HIV or AIDS in Belize but the year 2010 also marked a notable achievement as for the second consecutive year there has been a decrease in the total number of new HIV infections. Belize is one of the few countries which has seen a 33% decrease in the number of new infections. We are equally pleased to report that our prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) has a coverage rate of pregnant women that is almost 95% over the last 5 years and the transmission rate is now below 6%; this continued success can be highlighted as a best practice in the Caribbean region.

NAR: Health Minister Pablo Marin disclosed that aAt the end of 2010, the total coverage of persons needing medical treatment was above 70%, which he said was a clear demonstration of government's commitment to the scaling up of treatment and support services in order to reach the goal of complete universal access by 2015.

He called on the international community to be innovative in the way it approaches and addresses the ever growing dynamics of this disease, especially in the current global financial and economic crisis.

TAPE: While developing countries such as ours, must seek to adequately invest in documented cost effective interventions and best practices, and seize national ownership at all levels to maintain our successes and overcome challenges, the international community must also honour its commitments in order to be able consolidate our collective achievements. With the growing pandemic of non communicable diseases presenting a new dimension to the challenges we face, it is imperative to devise an integrated and broader health sector response to HIV; vertical programming and donor agency driven programmes have proven largely unsustainable and of limited effect. HIV must now be seen in the context of a chronic disease; in the context of a broader multi-sectoral response, in a context free of stigma and discrimination; in essence in the context of the respect of human rights and the right to health. Sustainable health initiatives will only succeed if we are strategic from the beginning ensuring country ownership and sustainability at all times, keeping the individual at the center of the process.

NAR: Belize's Minister of Health Pablo Marin.

The UNAIDS summit has set a target of more than doubling the number of sufferers receiving life-saving treatment to 15 million by 2015.

In the final statement, countries at the summit marking the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS “committed to accelerate efforts to achieve the goal of universal access to antiretroviral treatment.”

The accord also aims to end mother-to-child transfer of HIV by 2015 and increase preventive measures for the “most vulnerable populations.”

The international community currently funds treatment for about 6.6 million people in poorer countries, mainly in Africa.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 4’52″

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