By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Two surveys which the UNAIDS conducted over the past 16 months on issues related to attitudes toward sexuality, sexual education and people’s behavioural practices revealed on Friday that more Belizeans are accepting/tolerant towards homosexuality compared to the wider Caribbean, with the exception of Suriname. The surveys also determined that there is a high prevalence of domestic abuse and teenage prenancy.
The first poll, conducted in November of 2013, involved the participation of 773 persons from the ages of 18 to 64, in November 2013. The findings, according to Dr. Ernest Massiah, the Regional Director for UNAIDS in the Caribbean, “Belizeans are perhaps more accepting of sexual diversity… 34 percent of Belizeans said that they accept someone who is gay or homosexual and 34 percent said they would tolerate someone who is gay or homosexual. And that statistic is higher than what we’ve seen in many of the countries in the eastern Caribbean. So Belize is really showing itself to be a more accepting society than we would have first thought.” In fact, Dr. Massiah said that Belizeans are more accepting/tolerant of gays and lesbians today.
People are also less discriminatory towards people with HIV than they were 20 years ago, when they were suggesting that HIV should be quarantined.
The survey also revealed that 55 percent of people who test for HIV have concerns over confidentiality and 47 percent are concerned over the availability of treatment.
Another revelation was that more young people are sexually active. Massiah said that children as young as 13 years old are engaging in sexual activity. It shows that one out of every five babies born are to teenage mothers and 82 percent of Belizeans say that they would support the introduction of contraceptives and condom-use in secondary schools.
Additionally, the survey shows that 55 percent of those polled knew someone who have experienced domestic abuse and 55 percent also knew a child was being sexually abused.
The second survey, the Caribbean Men’s Health Survey (CARIMIS), was conducted via the internet and involved 112 Belizean men who have sex with men, 71 percent of whom say they have experienced verbal abuse and 17 percent have been physically abused.
“That is a really telling statistic because it is saying that because of your sexuality, you can be beaten up and I think we need to put physical abuse into that context – people attacking you. And that is not a value any society wants to have for its people but we are also seeing that when people are under that label”, Massiah said.
Of the the number of men polled,
63 percent said they were homosexual, while 17 percent said they were bisexual.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of HIV Programme, Ministry of Health told The Reporter that the findings have been presented to government officials for reference and action.