Unprotected heterosexual sex is the main route to HIV/AIDS transmission in the Caribbean, with unprotected homosexual sex a critical factor.
According to a 2007 report on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, cultural factors are fuelling the epidemic in high-risk groups (prostitutes and men who have sex with men). In addition, a 2008 study commissioned by the Ministry of Health showed that about one-third of men who have sex with men were also having sex with multiple female partners.
Shortcomings in the laws
The Ministry of Health cannot now deliver services to these high-risk groups under current laws, let alone the even more stringent laws about to be introduced under the Sexual Offences Bill. For example, under this new bill:
A man who is convicted of buggery (having consensual anal sex with a man or a woman) may now be listed as a sex offender after his 10-year prison sentence ends.
A woman who is convicted of prostitution (having consensual commercial sex) may be fined up to $500,000 and be imprisoned for up to five years. Anyone who lives with a prostitute, or is seen in her company, can be arrested and suffer the same penalties as the prostitute.
It is certainly in our interest as a society to avoid introducing laws almost guaranteed to worsen a potential epidemic.
I am, etc.,
YVONNE MCCALLA SOBERS