Posted: Monday, June 7, 2021. 1:09 pm CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: In recognition of the 2021 celebration of National HIV Testing Day, the community NGO Our Circle is hosting a 12-hour “Testathon” to give Belizeans an additional site where they can get a free HIV test.
Our Circle’s Testathon is scheduled for June 25 in lieu of June 27, at its resource center located at #14 New Road, Belize City. The event is being held under the theme “My test, My way.”
Derricia Castillo-Salazar, president and co-founder of Our Circle, noted that the organization is hosting the event through its role as a member of the Civil Society Organizational Hub, created as a grant management project for Civil Society Organizations (CSO)s that are working to eliminate HIV and Tuberculosis in Belize.
The CSO Hub forms a part of Belize’s current Global Fund proposal, which has a component that allows for CSO’s to engage community members to provide sexual health services such as HIV testing, along with glucose testing, hypertension testing. CSO’s under this component are also tasked with either linking people to resources that can support them in creating behavioral change in regards to HIV or linking them to care if they do come out HIV positive. She noted that the Testathon is important because the organization wants people to know that they have options to choose from when seeking an HIV test.
“So it’s not only that you have to go to a Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) clinic. It’s not necessary that you have to go to a Ministry of Health facility. There are CSOs such as Our Circle that afford the community the chance to get tested at our resource center. We also do home visits, and we also go into the community and meet them where they are so they can get their test, their way.”
Salazar also noted that the event will be a means of supporting health authorities, which are currently overburdened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She notes that having a site where members so f the public can get their HIV tests will free up Ministry of Health and Wellness personnel, who would have otherwise been working on getting those tests done, to focus on the national COVID-19 response. Testing data gathered through the initiative will be shared with the Ministry through the CSO hub, to form a part of the 2021 Epidemiological Report.
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