Comprehensive Security: Strategies and Development in the Fight against HIV in Belize 

By: Keren Dunaway

Belize has seen an increase in violence and discrimination, especially against key populations and people living with HIV. As of 2018, the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations represented significant progress. However, the full realization of human rights for LGBT people and other vulnerable populations still faces significant obstacles. The need to implement safety and security plans became evident to ensure the integrity and continuity of the vital work of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). 

The country faces unique challenges in protecting key populations affected by HIV. Although it is evident that CSOs play a crucial role in the comprehensive response to HIV, key populations and people living with HIV working in the field as social promoters have been threatened by violence and discrimination. Between June and July 2023, National Health Insurance (NHI), in its role as Principal Recipient (PR) of the Global Fund (GF) grant in the country, together with Via Libre/Platform LAC and a consultant team, initiated the coordination and implementation of a process for the development of Safety and Security Plans (P-SP) with and for CSOs working on HIV in Belize. 

The process of developing the plans highlighted the importance of coordinated support and effective communication among networks and direct contacts within the communities. Lead consultant Liz Aldana stated that “communication between networks and more direct contacts through people in the community facilitated the process.” CSOs that faced multiple obstacles in developing their plans, including lack of participation by some networks, the perception that the plans were not needed, and latent discrimination. These challenges were overcome by conducting fieldwork and direct dialogue with communities, which underscored the importance of personal safety and data protection as key elements to the inclusion and effectiveness of the plans. 

It is crucial to have open conversations about security risks, even in environments that are perceived as safe, Liz also stressed that “there are other dangers, not only at the personal level, but also in data protection and activities. The moment community members start to identify themselves as part of a specific community, they are exposed to additional risks.” 

During the implementation analysis, we found a normalization of violence by the population and the need to always be prepared for the unexpected, so the inclusion of all community members in the plan development process is a priority in order to have a plan that responds to the needs of the community. The development and implementation of safety and security plans in Belize demonstrates that collaboration, open dialogue and preparedness are critical to creating safe environments that allow CSOs to continue their essential work.