While Eric Castellanos was making waves in the political declaration, I was dialoguing with the representatives from AIDS FreeWorld. They eventually committed to support the regional effort to advance our section 53. Mauirce Tomlinson must be acknowledged for facilitating that meeting. He reminded me that I have a responsibility to the region to ensure that we win for our action has strong regional implications. He reminded me that i know longer represent just Belize, but all the hopes of LGBT populations in the region in their concerns to address stigma and discrimination.
Eric and I also had the chance to chat with the Health Minister of Belize at the Belize Mission in New York. I suppose all politicians like feedback to see how they are doing, in this case it was HIV/AIDS. We were surprisingly politically correct, but didnt mince words either. Eric shared his concerns about the lack of access to viral load testing and i shared my concerns about the lack of visibility of men who have sex with men and sex workers representatives being visibile at the policy table. I shared that there has never been an inter-ministerial committee that treated health as the center of development. I regret not saying more, as I am usually more forthright. The main message to him was that leaders establish a vision of where they desire to take a country's development and then mobilize accordingly. Leaders must lead smartly to bring about social change rather than be complacent about having it go them. What I believe I should have said was that his Ministry of Health have yet to establish targeted interventions for the men who have sex with men and sex workers and that his Ministry had failed to define its human rights-base approach to health delivery.
I have to admit that I was late for the three hour luncheon because of my dialogue with AIDS Free World. Still, I got to talk to Michael Side, the Executive Director for UNAIDS, meet Michael Kirky from Human Dignity Trust, chatted with Yolanda Simon from CRN plus.
I love being with Eric because he is an open PLHIV, he is Transgender and hehas a vision of where he wants to take the issues of Care, Treatment and Support. I consider him the most powerful PLHIV advocate ever to be present in Belize for he has already shown incredibly tenacity in his reports to REDCA that ended up at a Ministerial meeting, being elected as the PLHIV representative on our National AIDS Commission, being part of the Country coordinating Mechanism for Monitoring Global Fund and soon the head for BENET. Belize first network for positive people.
Beyond that, there were discussions about the country's development, sexual and reproductive rights and the churches stronghold on the prevention message. It was a good space, but I realize that the same space would not be available upon our return.