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The very first case of AIDS in Belize was reported in 1986. By the end of 2003 a total of 2,471 people had acquired HIV of which 669 developed AIDS. Of that number, 464 died. The Pan American Health Organization reports that HIV/AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death in Belize, second among males and sixth among females. As for infections, outside of the African continent, Belize has the sixth highest prevalance of HIV/AIDS in the world. Belize, with a population of over 266,440, has the highest per capita HIV infection rate (2.4%) in Central America.

The Cornestone Foundation has declared that "HIV is an epidemic in Belize". They base that statement upon the 2004 World Population Data Sheet that is republished on their website. Quoting the Cornerstone Foundation, " According to the 2004 Belize Epidemiological Fact Sheet, HIV prevention strategies depend on the twin efforts of care and support for those living with HIV or AIDS, and targeted prevention for all people at risk or vulnerable to the infection. The predominant mode of transmission of HIV is sexual intercourse."

Cornerstone goes on to say, "Condoms are the only technology available that can prevent sexual transmission of HIV. Persons exposing themselves to the risk of sexual transmission of HIV should have consistent access to high quality condoms. The Epidemiological Fact Sheet states that the indicators on knowledge and misconceptions are an important prerequisite for prevention programs to focus on increasing people's knowledge about sexual transmission, and, to overcome the misconceptions that act as a disincentive to behaviour change. Indicators on sexual behaviour and the promotion of safer sexual behaviour are at the core of AIDS programs."

Tragically, HIV/AIDS is affecting the age group most vital to the Belizean population, those that are primarily between the ages of 15 and 49 years young. Sadly this sector of the Belizean population represents the productive fibre of the population of Belize. This group represents the countries health care workers, teachers, politicians, business leaders, clergy and farmers. From the Maya to the Garifuna to the Kriol to the Mestizo to the Expats and beyond, the very best that Belize has to offer is now faced with a global concern.

As the general population faces an increasingly alarming new HIV infection rate that continues to rise, officials need to reflect upon the sheer reality of the times. For as tourism numbers grow weekly with the arrival of cruise shippers, so does the likelihood that the epidemic as announced by The Cornerstone Foundation will continue to affect the future of the land by the Caribe Sea.


The number of HIV infections has increased from 72 in 1995 to 447 in the year 2003. The ratio male to female of new HIV infections decreased from 2:1 in 1996 to an all time low of 1.16: 1 in 2003. The cumulative male to female ratio from 1996 to 2003 is 1.3:1. This ratio is approaching an equal number of males and females infected by this disease, indicating a feminisation of the epidemic.

This could partially be due to the implementation of the PMTCT Program, which entails HIV testing for females. The HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women tested (87%) was 0.92% in 2003. The districts of Belize and Stann Creek presented the highest rate with 1.74% and 1.44% respectively. Resources made available through the recently approved Global Fund should assist significantly in addressing HIV/AIDS. In addition, there is a multiplicity of agencies working on HIV/AIDS in the country and therefore in order to maximize resources and achieve desired results, effective coordination is critical.

As of the end of 1998 the ratio between males and females is 1.6 male to 1 female. In the Belize context, sexual contact constitutes the mode of transmission for the great majority of AIDS cases. Of the total number of cumulative AIDS cases, the classification of mode of transmission are as follows: 68% heterosexual, 16% bisexual, 11% homosexual, 3% prenatal and 3% from blood transfusion. When the cumulative of persons infected with HIV are desegrated by sex, the data shows a more rapid increase of cases among women relative to men. Since young people are the population most affected, dynamic and innovative programs must be developed to reach this group. Prevention programs need to find constructive ways of working with men as well as with women to build confidence to change attitudes and behaviour regarding HIV/AIDS and sexuality.

Both men and women are vulnerable to the HIV epidemic, however social constructs give men and women different positions and values which determine different patterns of vulnerability. No local studies exist that identify specifically how gender roles and existing gender inequities are influencing the AIDS epidemic, but it is generally perceived as an important factor to be addressed.

Not only does HIV have terrible consequences for the individual, causing serious illness and eventual death, it has the potential to trigger negative social reactions. Across the world people with HIV/AIDS routinely experience discrimination, stigmatisation and ostracism.

The first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Belize in 1986. Since then it has reflected an increase trend over the past decade. To date there has been a cumulative total of 315 AIDS cases and a cumulative of 750 persons infected with HIV (National AIDS Program). AIDS has reached all districts of the country with Belize District reporting the highest number of cases (118 AIDS cases cumulative) followed by Stann Creek (50 AIDS cases cumulative). The population most affected by both HIV infection and AIDS is between 15-44 years (79%).

For more information:
Pan American Health Organisation
Belize National Aids Comission

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