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by Rex Wockner
Some government officials in attendance at the recent annual meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS called for repeal of laws that criminalize gay sex as a pathway to slowing the spread of the virus, the Caribbean Media Corporation reported.
“If we repeal the Buggery Act it reduces risky behavior and puts the onus on men who have sex with men to act in a responsible way,” said Dr. Peter Figueroa, head of the Jamaican Ministry of Health’s AIDS program. “When people see themselves as excluded or discriminated against and stigmatized, it promotes risky behavior.”
The health minister of the island nation of Dominica, John Fabien, agreed, saying: “We need to take this to another level, I think the level of prime ministers. …The whole question of men who have sex with men…we can’t bow our heads in the sand and say it does not happen. I will be driving the process back home and try to see how we could get things going. …We need to really fall in line and try to get it off the books.”
Barbados’ health minister, Dr. David Estwick, asked, “What are we going to do about reaching men who have sex with men when we have laws against their sexual activity in most Caribbean countries?”
Jamaica’s Figueroa added that when gay sex is stigmatized, “it drives not only the epidemic underground, but it also means that men who have sex with men disguise their sexuality, take on a girlfriend and have sex with women who are unaware that they are really people who have sex with men, and therefore this acts as a bridge in terms of HIV transmission from the gay community.”
The meeting was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
According to Amnesty International, 11 Caribbean-area nations continue to ban gay sex: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.