State-Sponsored Homophobia Helps Spread HIV

A few weeks ago, civil society groups and human rights activists from across the Caribbean met with officials from UNAIDS, UNDP, and various national governments to talk about the impact that laws have on the HIV epidemic in the region. The meeting was the second regional dialogue of the UNDP Global Commission on HIV & Law, and was held in a region where a number of governments continue to use the law to persecute sexual and gender minorities.

According to the 2010 report from the International Lesbian and Gay Association, State-Sponsored Homophobia, 11 of the 13 Caribbean states criminalize sex between men. Under the continuous threat of imprisonment and police abuse, as well as discrimination from other citizens and even family members, gays and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in these countries are often driven away from the health and social services that they need. The same services, such as access to condoms and voluntary HIV testing and counseling, which are crucial in the fight against HIV.

Unsurprisingly, HIV among MSM is a relatively hidden but increasing problem for the Caribbean. In a region where the general adult HIV prevalence is second only to sub-Saharan Africa, at one percent of the population, infection among MSM is disproportionately high. For example, one in three MSM in Jamaica and one in five in Trinidad and Tobago are living with HIV.

What is happening in the Caribbean is happening across the world. Emerging research on MSM is highlighting an alarming epidemic on every continent, including in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV has long been considered a “heterosexual” problem. UNAIDS has recognized MSM as one of the most at-risk population groups when it comes to HIV infection, yet sex between men remains illegal in 76 countries and highly stigmatized in many others. Many governments either proactively ignore MSM in their national response to HIV or are prevented from effectively engaging with this population because of their own laws criminalizing homosexuality.

The governments of the Caribbean must show real leadership and take responsibility for properly addressing the HIV epidemic in their countries. Where criminal laws against MSM exist, they must be repealed. Where national responses to HIV sideline or silence the needs of this population group, changes must be made so that those who are vulnerable and at risk of infection receive the information, care, treatment, and support that they need.

It is time for governments to step up and recognize the dignity and human rights of all of their citizens.

4 Comments

homosexuality is not well received among ethnic africans in both the carribean and sub sahara due to cultural reasons. this must be respected by other nations since there are also logical scientific reasons to refuse the practice. however health service providers everywhere should attend to all those in need regardless of their sexual orientation as i believe is enshrined in hippocratic oath

Robert,
What are these "logical scientific reasons for refusing homosexuality." If you are eluding to the notion that homosexuals do not supply young but practise sexual activity...this is a narrow view of society. There are a greater number of indivduals who are not providers of heirs but practice sex...sex workers, elderly, and infirm (those who have sex but are unable to produce young), and the castrated, wounded, and incapable of sexual actiity but still capable of child-birth i.e. mutilated women who are raped and inseminated, the mentally infirm, and physically-imparied. Additionally, there are societies that celebrate the homosexual. Polynesias come to mind immediately. Would your outlook deem all these indivduals out of your society?

There are pleanty of medical reasons to stop the spread of HIV across the popultions of the Earth. The best proved method to slow the transmission of HIV intra-population is to provide individuals a protective covering of the sexual organs. ("condoms and the female condom")[99.995% effective when used properly and when the rate of transmission is not oral or intravenous.] The next best method is to provide circumcision of the fore-skin of the penis. [approx. 70%] The next method is education. Afterthat is medication provided and used properly, but only for mothers, in the case of transmission.

All have societal pressure to follow or ignore some with high contra-indications. Which would you apply? Why?

The second treatment is NOT practiced in the countries of the world where Muslim and/or Jewish religious practice demand it, or where the traditional national practice is circumciscion.
Medically, the foreskin removal method is approx. 70% effective and works without further education or medicines.

WOULD You have is impose this practice upon nations just because it is expediant?

What other practices would you impose just because cost/time/fear? Protecting the majority does not necessarily require that the minority be eliminated.

Robert-I'd love to hear your logical scientific reasons for refusing homosexuality.

While this report may be full of statistics to support its conclusions, the reality is quite another issue. Threat of imprisonment in the Caribbean, outside of Jamaica, which presents an extreme and unique case of state supported homophobia, is not what keeps people from not using condoms.Those are old laws that are just as ridiculous as not being able to wed across race in some Southern states(which happen to still exist). And contrary to people's assumptions, it's not homosexuality so much as it is feminized men that is frowned upon. Furthermore each island is so unique in its cultural attitudes towards the subject that an actual conclusion is going to be much to generalized. If you are a masculine man who happens to be into men you will not attacked or disrespected..but a feminine man is a another story. I like how these reports use a clinical perspective to measure and discuss "a reality" that only exists in the numbers. The problem cannot be discussed, much less resolved, if you continue to think these reports are doing anything more than helping to present an image which has little basis on reality. Sometimes common sense is more helpful than high intellec and this means forgetting the numbers and hitting the streets.

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