National AIDS Commission holds first National Assembly
Thursday, December 20th, 2012
During the weekend of December 14th the National Aids Commission (NAC) held its first ever National Assembly. The Assembly saw approximately 110 participants in the National Response gather for a two day conference at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City. The National Assembly marked the first time that all the key members of the National Response to HIV in Belize from around the country convened.
According to Executive Director of the Secretariat for the National Aids Commission, Dr. Martin Cuellar – this was the first National Assembly with the hope of it becoming an annual event. “We have couple objectives for this national assembly. But perhaps the most important is for us to re-commit our loyalty to working together as one united team and at the same time – strengthen our passion for the work that we do.”
Other objectives included a review of successes and accomplishments throughout the year both locally and nationally. “We are also working on strengthening the networks we have so as to assure better communication and to increase the collaboration that we have to do as a multi-sector response. And finally, this is an opportunity for us to synchronize our vision for 2013 so that as we work closer together and from one work plan, we maximize efficiency and get more outputs and stronger impact for the work that we do.”
In highlighting some of the accomplishments in the country, Dr. Cuellar made special mention of C-Net+ (the Collaborative Network of persons living with HIV), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) made up OF and FOR persons living with HIV which was established over a year ago. The group has been doing extraordinary work towards the National Response in being very visible in the public via media and the work they do for persons living with HIV.
Cuellar continued, “This year has been a year of many great accomplishments –we have developed our first official national strategic and operational plan which means that all the agencies; the NGOs, the Ministries and the community volunteers who are working around the country are working from one master plan and that’s very important. This is the year that we’ve seen increased meaningful participation from persons living with HIV as well and as a result of that – we have the first officially organized and registered NGO made up specifically of and for people living with HIV. This year we’ve been able to continue our resource mobilization by getting support for the second half of our current global fund
grant which means we will continue to have funding for the next three years.”
A highlight of the assembly was a presentation by Love FM’s Marion Ali, who spoke of the media’s role in “Getting to Zero”. She recognized that as the media, “enough is not being done” – if there are five murders down the street and an HIV – National Assembly going on at the same time – it is unfortunate – but that the murders trump the HIV Conference. With this said, she gave a renewed commitment to work alongside the NAC to get the information to the general public.
Throughout the conference, there was much reflection that took place. One of the main issues noted was that communication within the National Response needs to be strengthened and that better relations need to be cultivated between the government system and civil society. One key item to come from the first day of the assembly was a Declaration of Intent to Strengthen Collaboration signed by those partners in the National Response present.
Speaking of the resolutions coming out of the assembly, Dr. Cuellar stated, “`We came up with a resolution on the first day of the assembly and the second day we came up with a mini action plan specific to address this issue and it is our intention that in the early months of 2013 we will be able to face this challenge and confront it and with the small action plan that we’ve developed – we should be able to overcome this challenge so that for the rest of 2013 everybody will be able to benefit from all actors on the stage contributing the best that they have and everybody benefiting from each other’s contribution.”
Another highlight of the assembly was acknowledging the outstanding work within the National Response as a form of motivation and inspiration for all partners. Almost unanimously, the organization, C-Net+ was voted as the most outstanding organization, while the President of C-Net+, Eric Castellanos was voted the most outstanding individual, working in the National Response.
In ending, Dr. Cuellar commended and thanked the media for all the work we do to further the cause. “We are very grateful of the role that the media continues to play, and another highlight of this year’s assembly was the formal welcoming of more media houses – as active partners in the National Response. This highlights the stronger bonds that we are establishing with the media partners in the National Response – and as such we thank players like The San Pedro Sun and other media houses for the work that they do as members of the National Response and as reporters and media personnel – because we see a perfect marriage. We recognize the media as a key partner – with a great potential for educating the public and so we are very grateful for the work that the media continues to do.”
The two day assembly saw the seven District Committees (including Belmopan and the Islands) give presentations on their various accomplishments throughout the previous year. Each district committee was encouraged to share with and learn from each other.
The National AIDS Commission was appointed by the Cabinet and officially established in February of 2000. The Principal objective of the NAC is to coordinate, facilitate and monitor the National Response to HIV and AIDS as well as the National Strategic Plan so as to reduce the incidence and spread of HIV/AIDS and provide comprehensive, quality support of persons living with HIV/AIDS. The Commission also has the shared responsibility for Advocacy, Resource Mobilization, and development of Policy and Legislation and over all monitoring and evaluation of all interventions and efforts. The overall goals are: By 2016, Belize has halted and began to reverse the HIV incidence rates among young people, men who have sex with men (MSN) and sex workers; the AIDS related deaths, especially among men and living with HIV in Belize, will have decreased by 30%; Systems will be in place to fully understand the essential features of the epidemic in Belize; and that Belize will have significantly reduced discrimination against persons vulnerable to HIV. Locally, the NAC/ CCM (Country Coordinating Mechanism) Island Committee has been established to further the work of the NAC on both San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
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