Attack on Gays Bad for Fight Against HIV-AIDS

IGLHRC believes that a vital part of our mission is supporting the work of activist organizations and allies by disseminating important information on human rights issues affecting LGBT communities worldwide. To this end we are posting this article from Maurice Tomlinson.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

JFLAG received information that on December 7, 2010, a gay tertiary student was savagely beaten by his colleagues after being recorded in an intimate conversation with a classmate posing as gay. This latest attack follows the brutal hacking to death of a cross-dresser in Half-Way-Tree on December 3, 2010.

The point has repeatedly been made that this pattern of virulent intolerance and homophobia has dire consequences for the country's fight against HIV and AIDS by driving gays underground, away from effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions. Many gay Jamaicans refrain from going to pharmacies to buy condoms and lubricants for fear of being "outed", and yet, even the Pope has conceded that condoms are essential in the fight against HIV. The Jamaican government also admitted at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Session on November 8, 2010 that it recognises that such attacks as described above heighten the vulnerability of LGBT Jamaicans.

In response to this continued intolerance and homophobia, civil society groups produced an anti-intolerance and anti-homophobia public service announcement (PSA) which aired on the major television and radio stations. The PSA features noted local personages, including the former army chaplain, a human rights defender and a former Miss Jamaica World. The PSA's message is simple: intolerance and homophobia spread HIV and while tolerance does not mean acceptance, it does mean respecting human rights. Will the Jamaican government endorse this message by publicly condemning the attacks and repealing the buggery law which fosters them?

Maurice Tomlinson
Montego Bay, St James