Human Rights Watch
According to this report, Jamaica is considered at a crossroads in its efforts to address its growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. On June 9, 2004, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, Brian Williamson, was murdered and his body was found mutilated. The article states that this kind of violence is commonplace and violent acts against homosexuals are occurring as the epidemic continues to spread.
The report claims that "an estimated 1.5 percent of Jamaicans are living with HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS is on the increase." The report describes people living with HIV/AIDS as discriminated against to the point where they are not receiving necessary medical care. In some instances health workers mistreat people with HIV/AIDS, and some are said to make abusive comments. In some cases they even deny treatment. Doctors are known to refuse to touch people with HIV/AIDS. The report describes people who have HIV/AIDS as victims of violence who do not seek out the police for fear of how they may be treated. Additionally, according to the report, organisations providing HIV/AIDS education and services have also been the targets of violence.
The report indicates that Jamaica's National HIV/AIDS Program has worked with nongovernment organisations to both find ways to respond to the epidemic as well as help marginalised high-risk groups. Efforts have been made to provide HIV/AIDS training for health personnel addressing stigma and discrimination. While these are positive steps, the government undermines them through sodomy laws and not responding to human right abuses. The Ministry of Health’s National HIV/AIDS Program acknowledges that human rights abuses against people with HIV/AIDS have occurred. Since 2002, according to the report, the Jamaican government has received resources to put its national HIV/AIDS strategy into action, including a legal framework to ensure human rights protections. What is missing is the concerted effort of authorities to follow through with enforcement.
The report ends with reference to a two-tiered project launched in 2004. The project provides antiretroviral treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS and also addresses human rights violations that are driving the epidemic. Jamaican government leaders must attempt to end discrimination because as the report states if "popular prejudices continue to undermine its attempts to establish rights-based HIV/AIDS policies, the consequences for all Jamaicans will be dire."
Click here for the 81-page report in PDF format.
Message sent to GENDER-AIDS on December 14, 2004.