National AIDS Commission highlights stigma, discrimination, human rights

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

The National Aids Commission (NAC) in Belize hosted a two-day workshop on how to train journalists/media personnel in reporting topics regarding HIV (human immunodeficiency disorder)/TB (tuberculosis)/AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The San Pedro Sun is sharing the information gathered during the workshop facilitated by Martha Carrillo (Founder of MC Consultancy) in a series of articles over the next two weeks. In the first article, out on Friday, January 27th, Volume 27 Issue #4, the basics of HIV/TB/AIDS, how it is transmitted, the various stages of HIV, and treatment options for HIV were explained. The second article, out on Friday, February 3rd, Volume 27 Issue #5, The San Pedro Sun explored the global and regionally statistics on HIV, and introduced Belize’s leading HIV advocate, Erika Castellanos. In this issue, we highlight stigma, discrimination, and human rights, especially how it impacts persons living with HIV.
Stigma and Discrimination
Stigma is defined as negative thoughts about a person or group based on a prejudice. It is usually a negative label we place on others because they are different from us or have some characteristic that makes them different from us. In the case of HIV/AIDS, stigma is the act of social rejection that has taken place as a result of one’s HIV status.
Discrimination is stigma acted out, and it tends to fall into two categories: (1) legislative, which reflects stigma enacted in law or policy, and (2) community, which reflects stigma ‘acted out’ in less formal contexts, such as the family, workplace or in other social settings. HIV/AIDS related discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly or unjustly, on the basis of her/his actual or presumed HIV positive status. For instance, a worker is discriminated against, and does not get promoted because of his/her HIV status.
Human Rights
Human rights are entitlements that are due to all individuals. People living with HIV/AIDS have the same human rights as any other person. These internationally recognized rights include the following: the right to life, protection against discrimination, private life, and employment. Carrillo also encourages the public to practice advocacy among persons living with HIV. This will not only allow persons living with HIV to gain mental strength, but it will give them the desire for long life expectancy.
Tribute to Felix Ayuso, President of The San Pedro AIDS Commission
By Commission Members
Honestly, the task of trying to quantify and articulate the impact Felix Ayuso has had in removing the stigma and providing the necessary help to those affected by HIV/AIDS is extremely daunting. All one needs to do is examine the island’s understanding and willingness to openly discuss the once taboo subject of HIV/AIDS, all of which can be directly attributed to him. Moreover, to even mention the San
Pedro AIDS Commission without the name Felix Ayuso would be impossible. Everything we have accomplished as a group found its catalyst within that man. Simply put, Felix was the San Pedro AIDS Commission. Perhaps the most important quality he brought to our group was his unwavering sense of discretion. He understood from the onset the importance of anonymity and carried it with him in everything he did for our patients.
Starting nearly 20 years ago, Felix’s passion for helping those whose lives have been impacted by this terrible disease grew exponentially year by year. So much so, that today his organization consists of dozens of very devoted members and is one of the most active in the whole country. On a daily basis, you could find Felix lending a sympathetic ear to a patient or accompanying another to the mainland so they wouldn’t have to be alone during their testing. Several times throughout the year Felix would have The San Pedro AIDS Commission dancing in the streets in the most glorious of costumes, educating curious onlookers during one of our many fundraisers held in central park or marching in solidarity alongside other important organizations. World AIDS Day, Carnival, September Celebrations, Holiday Boat Parade and Lobster Fest are just some of the marquee events you could find Felix going above and beyond his call of duty. His altruism truly knew no bounds. And, it is for that reason his fellow members will continue to protect and build upon that which Felix loved so dearly.
If you need more information regarding HIV, available treatment, questions, or concerns, you may contact the National AIDS Commission by calling 223-7592 or email [email protected]

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