Last edited: November 19, 2004

Anti-Gay Hate Fuels Jamaica HIV Crisis

PlanetOut Network, November 16, 2004

By Christopher Curtis

SUMMARY: On Tuesday Human Rights Watch released its report on homophobia, violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, titled, “Jamaica: Hated to Death.”

On Tuesday Human Rights Watch released its report on homophobia, violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, titled, “Jamaica: Hated to Death.”

The report begins with the murder of Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist. The study notes on June 9, 2004, an hour after his body was discovered mutilated by multiple knife wounds, a happy crowd gathered outside his place.

“A smiling man called out, ‘Battyman [homosexual] he get killed!’ Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, ‘let’s get them one at a time,’ ‘that’s what you get for sin,’ ‘let’s kill all of them.’ Some sang ‘boom bye bye,’ a line from a popular Jamaican song about killing and burning gay men,” according to the document.

The report says violent acts against men who have sex with men are commonplace in Jamaica, ranging from verbal and physical violence to murder. Some are now homeless after having been driven from their towns by neighbors threatening to kill them if they stayed. Vincent G. told Human Rights Watch: “I don’t live anywhere now. ... Some guys in the area threatened me. ‘Battyman, you have to leave. If you don’t leave, we’ll kill you.’”

Human Rights Watch notes victims of violence are usually too scared to go to the police since the authorities have been known to harass and attack men thought to be gay. Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that police joined a mob on June 18, 2004, responsible for killing a man thought to be gay. According to the report the man was “chopped, stabbed and stoned to death” in Montego Bay.

In Jamaica HIV/AIDS and homosexuality are thought to be synonymous, putting efforts to fight the pandemic in jeopardy due to the country’s intense homophobia. A group that provided HIV/AIDS education for the youth received an e-mail threatening to gun down “gays and homosexuals.” In a 2003 case, a police officer told a person living with HIV/AIDS that he must be homosexual and threatened to kill him if he did not “move [his] AIDS self from here.”

Human Rights Watch finds discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica prevents them from getting adequate medical care. In some cases doctors would not even touch patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. Those with visible HIV-related symptoms report being kept from public or private transportation when trying to visit a doctor.

While Jamaica’s Ministry of Health believes HIV/AIDS discrimination is a key factor in driving the pandemic, other parts of the government undermine the effort to fight the disease. Since consensual sex between adult men is criminalized, HIV peer educators have been arrested. The government uses the same rationale to prevent HIV prevention services to prisoners.

The report concludes: “If the Jamaican government chooses instead to let popular prejudices continue to undermine its attempts to establish rights-based HIV/AIDS policies, the consequences for all Jamaicans will be dire. Thousands of Jamaicans will be consigned to lives of horrific abuse, and thousands will face premature and preventable death.”

Hated to Death: Homophobia, Violence, and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

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