The Editor, Sir:
In the Thursday, April 22 edition of the Gleaner, Wayne West sought to discredit the Ministry of Health, the former head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health, Professor Peter Figueroa, UNAIDS, and countless others who have found a correlation between the continued criminalisation of buggery and the high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among Jamaican men who have sex with men (MSM).
He tries a sleight of hand by arguing that in the United States where buggery has been decriminalised, “MSM made up more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of all men living with HIV in 2005.” However, he conveniently fails to mention that the study he relies on is five years old, or that the US Supreme Court only decriminalised buggery in 2003, or that he is comparing ‘apples and oranges’ (the HIV/AIDS prevalence among MSM in Jamaica as against the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among all men – gay or straight – in the US).
These and other glaring omissions by West are just plain sloppy research at best, and outright disingenuous at worse. Or more likely, they show the extent to which people will go to deny the human rights of Jamaican gays.
The fact is decriminalising buggery is a crucial step in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among MSM and the population at large. It will take years for a traditionally marginalised and oppressed group such as MSM, to effect the behaviour change needed to reduce their HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. But first they must be brought into the general population as full citizens through the recognition of their rights by the state and through decriminalisation of their lifestyle.
I am, etc.,