Features

AIDS/HIV & GAYS in Jamaica

Written by Ray Damdar

Raising awareness about the HIV & GAY issues in Jamaica.

 

As of the end 2003, an estimated 22,000 people, or 1.5 percent of the adult population, were living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, the third largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region (after Haiti and the Dominican Republic). HIV prevalence rates are very high among marginalized populations, including men who have sex with men and sex workers. The epidemic continues to spread in the general population.

De Jamaican utes are now teaching demselves sex education, complete with oral and practical exams. De pickney dem are learning fram de example set by dere parents and peers who change sexual partners as frequent as de increases in de amount JA dollas it tek to buy one US dolla. Fudermore, wi cyan’t continue to believe dat is ongly gay people in JA ave and spread AIDS because dat is as true as de JA Gvt’s promise to tackle de unemployment rate.

According to the Jamaican government’s national HIV/AIDS program, in Jamaica HIV is predominantly transmitted through unprotected heterosexual sex and is increasing faster among women than men. Ministry of Health statistics attribute 67.8 percent of AIDS cases to heterosexual sex and 5.4 percent to homosexual and bisexual sex combined.

‘Yardi nuh swim wid boots’ sums up de Jumaican sentiment bout unprotected sex. In fac de ongly protection dat is present sometime is de next man outside de door waiting and watching for im turn. Battery is Jamaica is a noun and also verb. De fact dat AIDS is spreading fasta fi woman dan men alludes to de acceptance in our culture dat one man cyan ave nuff woman. Dat mean dat when im catch AIDS im going give it to all of im girlfren dem.

The percentage of HIV cases acquired through male-to-male sexual contact is probably higher, however. The fact that homosexual sex is illegal, together with the strong stigma and discrimination attached to homosexual and bisexual behavior, may keep many men who have sex with men from admitting to having had sex with other men.

Jus is case farin people are reading and don’t understan wi culture. Mek mi tell yuh, in JA a man woulda probably get arrested and beaten fasta fi sleeping wid a nex man dan if im tief fram de Bank of Jamaica itself (in fact wi also ave a term for people who do de latter- elected cabinet officials). So if AiDS a spread at a fasta rate in de Gay community dan in de Hetro-munity den we need to have programmes dat will specifically address dem. De prablem is dat nobady in JA wants to admit dat dey are GAY (cyan you blame dem).

Violence against men who have sex with men, ranging from verbal harassment to beatings, armed attacks, and murder, is pervasive in Jamaica. Physical attacks against gay men and men perceived to engage in homosexual conduct are often accompanied by expressions of intent to kill the victim, such as “Battyman fi dead”

In Jamaica it is not safe to ‘come out of de closet’. It’s more like hiding in de bomb proof bunker dat yuh are in and keeping yuh mouth shut. It is almost sad sometimes to see such a lack of acceptance in sexual diversity in a country that professes ‘ One Love’. In fact de safest ting fi a gay man in our country fi do is ‘turn your lights down low’ because dere is ‘so much trouble in the world’ and if dey don’t dere could be ‘burning and a looting tonight’.

The Ministry of Health relies on the NGO Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS) to provide HIV/AIDS information and services to men who have sex with men. In May 2003, A JAS outreach worker was in an area known to be frequented by gay men.”I was there handing out condoms on the main road. I was issuing condoms and about five guys were there”.

Gad bless dis poor outreach worker’s heart cause Jah know dat if I had to work in any area where gay men congregate dem would have to sponsor mi a buttet proof vest before I go in to work. A wonda if dem ave special marketing slogans for selling condoms to gays. ‘Rub a dub-dub, three men in a tub’. And how would you stand on de side of de street and offer condoms to gays. “ Amm…I’m not sure what part of the birthday cake you’re going to stick your candle in but here’s a balloon to ‘blow’ up while you decide.”

The Jamaican government—namely, the Ministry of Health’s national HIV/AIDS program—has acknowledged that human rights abuses against marginalized populations at risk of HIV and against people living with HIV/AIDS are important factors driving the epidemic. Its national HIV/AIDS strategy has at its core protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of people living with and at high risk of HIV/AIDS.

Wi ave to understand dat anybody can catch and spread HIV/AIDS weder straight, gay, lesbian, black, white, uptown or downtown if yuh ave multiple sexual partners and don’t use protection. Wi mus focus on stopping de spread of HIV/AIDS by educating our utes on safe sex, STD’s and methods of contraception instead of being sidetracked by mistreating already existing AIDS victims and gays.

Article Excerpts taken from website http://hrw.org/reports/2004/jamaica1104/ article titled’ Hated to Death: Homophobia,Violence, and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic’ . This commentry was brought to you by Guinep Tree Productions.

About the Author

Ray Damdar is a Jamaican living in Hartford, CT amongst the third largest Jamaican population in Merica. He is constantly amused by his culture and has no odda choice but to comment.

Favorite saying ” Every hoe ave dem stick a bush”

About the author

Ray Damdar