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Combating HIV in Belize

From the UNDP website:

With an HIV prevalence of 2.1 percent among adults, Belize has the highest HIV prevalence in Central America and the third-highest in the Caribbean after the Bahamas and Haiti, according to a 2007 study. UNAIDS estimates some 3,600 people are currently living with HIV in Belize, 2,000 of them women.

Belize has a total population of just 333,200, 35 percent of whom are younger than 14.

UNDP took over management of a grant by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria—the only Global Fund grant in the country—following a request by the Belize government.  UNDP is working with the government and local civil society groups  to execute the US$3.1 million grant.

“UNDP is learning from our many successes in responding to HIV,” Jeffrey O’Malley, Director of the HIV/AIDS Group in the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy, said. “Strong partnerships across multiple ministries of government, and between governments and communities, are absolutely essential. Prevention works when it focuses on and involves those most at risk of HIV infection.”

“Scaling up treatment isn’t just a moral imperative—it’s a practical possibility, even in poor countries.”

Numerous challenges

Belize, bordering Mexico and Guatemala, faces numerous challenges that may drive the HIV epidemic.

With high rates of poverty, unemployment, chronic malnutrition, drug abuse, and violence, Belize is highly vulnerable to economic shocks and natural disasters.
Provision of adequate health care is significantly hindered by the steady outflow of many professionals, including health care workers.

This program, signed in December 2010, aims to provide a targeted response to these challenges and to halt the spread of HIV in Belize, with a special emphasis on young people aged 15-24. It includes:

  • Delivering life skills-based HIV education to secondary school students
  • Providing access to condoms and subsidized referrals and testing for sexually transmitted infections to the country’s high-risk populations
  • Designing and delivering psychosocial support to people living with HIV
  • Providing a basic package of support services to children affected by AIDS
  • Providing anti-retroviral drugs free of cost at all treatment points to those who need them
  • Providing further specialized training to professional service providers

UNDP has partnered with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria since 2003 to support implementation of HIV, TB, and malaria programs in low- and middle-income countries.

“This partnership between the Global Fund and UNDP is the best of both worlds,” said Francisco Roquette, Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP Belize. “It’s a perfect combination of very global knowledge with very concrete understanding of the challenges on the ground.”

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.