The World Day of Aids was celebrated on Sunday, December 1st all around the world under the theme “Getting to Zero”, instated in 2011. But though the official day was celebrated this weekend, the US Embassy in Belize held their World Day of AIDS symposium today; ‘better late than never’ is what they always say. At the welcome address the US Embassy’s Chargé D’affairs Margaret Hawthorne highlighted the history of a long standing fight against HIV AIDS, made official when the U.S. President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was launched in 2003.
“Ten years ago, President Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief as PEPFAR. Globally, PEPFAR currently supports one million people on anti retro viral treatment. Additionally, the United States provides 30% of all global funding monies permitted to preventing HIV, Malaria and tuberculosis worldwide. These investments are providing very significant returns. The United States is proud of its longstanding leadership in fighting this epidemic”.
The US Embassy’s Political Officer Jessica Phleiderer explained that working in partnership with local bodies such as PASMO is the key role that they, as the Embassy, play in this fight against AIDS.
“The Embassy works in partnership with local partners including PASMO, PASCAL Capacity International trust through the University and other local partners in order to work on the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as TST immunization efforts. The embassy has a small grants program that we help to advertise every year that helps build capacity and offer project opportunities to small non-government organizations; we’ve had a history of great success with that, and we, through PEPFAR, which is out of the Central American Regional Program directly fund BZE$2,000,000 to fight the spread of HIV /AIDS in Belize”.
Representatives from PASMO were at the symposium providing informative information about Aids and offering free HIV testing. Program Supervisor Keron Cacho, described the US EMBASSY’s relationship with their organization and related other projects that they are currently embarked on.
‘The U.S. embassy definitely has assisted us tremendously. They have been our primary funder as I mentioned earlier, they have always provided us with support and acknowledgements. Currently, we’ve been working on a lot of activities. One is the Mas Caliente Campaign. I know you guys have seen some of the ads in television which actually focuses on the emphasis on males taking HIV tests or using s condom while having sexual intercourse. We’ve also done a lot of work with persons with HIV through the collaborative network for persons living with HIV; we’ve also launched a website which is called What Now caring for persons with HIV. We’ve do a lot of mobile testing with Ministry of Health and Family Life Association. Mobile test is providing HIV tests to most at risk populations and most at risk populations might be from north, south, east and west; we bring the test to them”.
World AIDS Day was celebrated this year under the team “Getting to Zero”; ‘Zero new HIV infections, Zero cases of discrimination and Zero cases of AIDS related deaths by the year 2015.