With the overwhelming amount of crime and corruption currently stifling our country, residents often times forget some of the other issues that are affecting our population for example the existing battle with HIV and AIDS.
Today the Ministry of Health released the 2016 annual statistics on the virus and while the numbers are open to interpretation, it appears that Belize, like the rest of the world, increased optimism in HIV treatment and prevention. According to the National AIDS Programme, in 2016 Belize began trends in reducing new HIV infections, increasing linkage to care, and increasing the number of people with HIV who had achieved viral suppression. According to the report, there were a total of two hundred and twenty five new HIV infections reported in 2016, reelecting a constant stabilization over the past three years, with 221 cases in 2014 and 239 cases in 2015.
As it relates to new infections by district, the Belize District had the most infections with a total of one hundred and twenty six followed by Cayo with thirty seven. The Orange Walk and Corozal Districts recorded a total of fifteen cases each for 2016. In forty-three cases the virus resulted in AIDS last year versus thirty the year before. One area where there was a significant change from year to year was the ratio of men to women contracting the virus. An increase in rate of newly diagnosed HIV cases can be seen in the 20+ yrs. age groups in both sexes, with close cases in both the male and female population.
The rate of infection is high among females 20-24 years and females 35-39 years. The majority of HIV positive young females are reached through the prenatal clinics which is an indicator of unsafe sex resulting in pregnancy and HIV infection. This continues to reflect the need to capture the younger population before engaging in sexual contact that would carry a low risk of HIV and other STI transmission. New interventions to address females after their reproductive years need to be identified to capture this population.
In 2016, one hundred and four Belizeans died of HIV related conditions.