The Ministry of Health is reporting, according to an AMANDALA article, that there were 241 new cases of HIV for the year 2013. Of the total new cases, 145 or 60% were male, while 96 or the other 40% were female. The total for 2013 shows a slight decline of 3% to the previous year when there were 249 new cases. Testing increased by 11.5 percent but women are still being tested twice as often as males; perhaps because 92% of women who were pregnant in 2013 were screened for HIV. Yet, though women are tested more, men are three times more likely than women to test positive for HIV. Most of the new HIV cases continue to be concentrated among homosexual males, with a prevalence rate of almost 14%. A good percentage of persons, particularly men, are being detected in advanced stages of the disease. At this point, very little can be done. In fact, Ministry of Health reported that 89 Belizeans died from Aids last year, with 7 of them dying from complications caused by tuberculosis.
A recently released Report titled “National TB, HIV/AIDS & other STIs Programme”2013 states that there is the need for new ideas to help earlier detection and to keep these persons within the health system. The report complained that”The National Response also remains at times disorganized and non-focused giving at times the impression that the work set out is being carried out in an ad-hoc and non-tailored fashion.”
The complaint is alarming as it paints a picture that sufficient emphasis is not being placed on education, detection and treatment of HIV. Instead emphasis, personnel and resources appear to be shifted to the fight against stigma and discrimination and the promotion of the gender agenda. For example, the latter part of 2013 saw a dwindling of the human resources attached specifically to HIV and was evident across all sectors. The National AIDS Commission secretariat saw a 100% turnover of staff while the staffing at the Epidemiology Unit was also severely affected. The turnover of staff at headquarters has “diluted the responsiveness from central to the regional levels…Added to this, the closure of UNAIDS, a major technical office in Belize, who for now will give support but from the regional office.” Diagnostic techniques for HIV, sexually transmitted infections and for tuberculosis remain a challenge because, according to the report; these can at times be relegated to a secondary role within the programme. Viral load testing, currently done in Mexico, should be available later this year.