In the August 15 edition of the Sunday Observer, Betty Ann Blaine laid out the plans of her New Nation Coalition to tackle Jamaica’s AIDS epidemic. Her simple solution is to focus on family life and abstinence education for the young.
However well intentioned she is, Betty Ann has displayed a supreme ignorance about a complex epidemic which is sadly not “new”. Such ignorance is common among many who hold or aspire to political office in Jamaica. The fact is that reverting to simplistic arguments of “morality” will do little to stem the epidemic, as seen from the failed morality campaigns of the past PNP and current JLP administrations. Similarly, millions of lives – mostly women – were needlessly lost to AIDS in South Africa and Botswana when those governments initially ignored condom distribution and human rights recognition in favour of morality and abstinence rhetoric as the major planks of their AIDS response.
In contrast, New Zealand (the only country in the world in which all the highest offices in the land have been occupied simultaneously by women) recorded only 19 new cases of new HIV infections last year. This feat was accomplished through a focus on human rights recognition for all, including homosexuals. The decriminalisation of buggery therefore paved the way for unrestricted access to effective HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support interventions for homosexuals.
The connection between human sexuality and AIDS is complex and requires a sophisticated and intelligent response; not old, uninformed reactionary positions, as stated by Betty Ann. Human beings enjoy sex and simply telling them to stop will not work.
Further, making it more difficult for them to protect themselves from HIV is not only irresponsible, it’s a sure recipe for national disaster. Human rights recognition works to fight HIV and also creates the peace and stability needed for national development. As Jamaicans we need new visionary leaders who can see beyond their narrow (religious) biases and uphold the constitutional rights of all. Betty Ann has much to learn.
Maurice Tomlinson Montego Bay,