Bad news for HIV in Jamaica: HIV/AIDS Programme Hit By Funding Woes

Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer

Dr Karen Hilliard (centre), mission director, United States Agency for International Development, responds to President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Milton Samuda (right), during a meeting of private sector leaders to discuss establishing a foundation to ensure the financial sustainability of Jamaica’s HIV programme, at the Wyndham Kingston hotel, New Kingston, Tuesday. At left is chief consultant at the Jamaica Business Council

The announcement by the World Bank that due to the global financial crisis, within the next four years, they will stop external funding of Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS programme has thrown the business community into a crisis mode.

With the core productivity age group, 20-44, at the greatest risk, it has hit home that the economy could be in serious trouble and the productivity level of the country greatly affected if left unchecked.

This reality has caused the Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS (JaBCHA), to seek to establish a J$1 billion foundation to support the national treatment and prevention programme. As the council’s chief fundraiser Earle Moore puts it, “A strong hurricane is heading our way and we have ample time to prepare for it.”

Human resources

Moore added, “If we don’t control the HIV epidemic, it will lead to reduced market sizes for businesses. There will be a decline in the total number of human resources available for production and investment, and managing human resources within our companies will become more difficult and complicated.”

JaBCHA has the strong backing of the Ministry of Health, Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF), Private Sector of Jamaica, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and USAID/ Jamaica. Several key organisations are already onboard, among them Jamaica National, LIME, GraceKennedy, Supreme Ventures, LASCO, Bank of Nova Scotia, Jamaica Broilers and Digicel.

Speaking at JaBCHA’s launch, on Tuesday, JEF President Wayne Chen said: “We are concerned about the increasing number of employees with HIV/AIDS, so we now have to take an enlightened approach to deal with it.”

JCC President Milton Samuda said, “if it is left unchecked, Jamaica will be faced with a crisis, so the private sector has to put heart and soul into it to prevent it. We need to do more for ourselves, instead of depending on others. We have to clean up our own mess. We have to fund the things that are of national importance.”

Wayne Cummings, JHTA president, said he wanted the private sector to take it one step further and “make a bold move. Remove HIV/AIDS persons from the list of persons who cannot get insurance.”

Mission Director of USAID/Jamaica, Dr Karen Hilliard said she was proud to see the greater business community come together to commit funding to fight an epidemic that threatened the productivity sector.

Dr Kevin Harvey, HIV/STI senior medical officer in the Ministry of Health, announced that there is a 2007-2012 National Strategic Plan in place to deal with the epidemic, which is estimated to cost over US$200 million.

Funding

Jamaica has relied heavily on external funding to support its HIV/AIDS programme. Over the last two years, the national HIV programme was funded largely by global donors to the tune of US$80.4 million, with treatment and prevention receiving 33 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively. Only one per cent of Jamaica’s National Capital Expenditure was allocated to the health service.

On the other hand, countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and St Kitts & Nevis finance their HIV/AIDS programmes primarily from domestic revenue. While The Bahamas’ programme is solely financed by the private sector.

Between 1982 and 2009, approxi-mately 1.6 per cent or some 27,000 Jamaicans had HIV, 14,354 of which had AIDS, 7,772 of that number have died. Men and women age 20-44, the labour force’s most productive years, accounted for 65 per cent of the reported AIDS cases. Kingston, St Andrew and St James had the majority of cases. Last year, 378 persons died of AIDS, a decline of 43 per cent, when compared to 665 persons who died in 2004.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com

Jamaica Gleaner Company

Jamaicans for Justice on: “Exposing The Painful Truth”

Dr Carolyn Gomes,

Executive Director Jamaicans for Justice speaking after the recent United Nations vote to remove sexual orientation from the list of judicial killings supported by our Jamaican government and other states such as Cuba and strangely enough South Africa who originally was on a roll post apartheid and the new thrust for implementing rights to its citizenry.

Dr. Gomes wrote:

It was an interesting feeling to be in Geneva, Switzerland, and talk to a representative from a foreign country about Jamaica’shuman rights. Many of these representatives have never been here, and only know about our country through tourism advertisements and the classic reggae song One Love.

It was my duty to explain that Jamaica’s international reputation as the home of “no problem, man” belies its abysmal record of human-rights abuses which includes extrajudicial police killings, inhuman prison conditions, and cruel treatment of homosexuals.

The diplomats I met were surprised to hear about the extent of Jamaica’s human-rights infractions. And, indeed, that’s the main reason why I went to Switzerland.

Along with two of my colleagues, I met with foreign representatives who were attending the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is a process where the human-rights records of all 192 UN member states are examined. The UPR, started in 2008, requires each country to account for its human-rights record every four years.

Fulfil their human-rights obligations

The UPR provides each UN member state – including countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom – with the chance to explain the actions they have taken to improve the human-rights situations in their countries and fulfil their human-rights obligations in accordance with international laws.

The 2010 UPR that took place earlier this month marked the first time that Jamaica’s human-rights record was examined. I’m deeply honoured that the organisation I’m part of – Jamaicans For Justice – was able to brief several dignitaries beforehand about our concerns with Jamaica’s record.

At the UPR, the Government of Jamaica was represented by Marlene Malahoo Forte, minister of state, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. When she took the podium, she told the assembled diplomats that “We are moving in the right direction.” To emphasise her point, Ms Malahoo Forte repeated her statement at least nine times within 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, repeating a phrase doesn’t make it true.

Jamaica Gleaner Company

Wrong direction

The painful truth is that Jamaica is speeding in the wrong direction. Ms Malahoo Forte’s statement ignores two recent statistics: First, the number of police shootings in Jamaica has increased and will likely top 400 this year. Second, the number of children being held in places of adult detention – in itself, a direct violation of Jamaican law – has increased from the 68 reported to Parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding in February this year to more than 100 in October 2010.

More than 40 countries made 119 recommendations to strengthen and improve Jamaica’s record. I doubt that the countries evaluating Jamaica’s human-rights inaction were satisfied with the Government’s official excuse. I know I certainly wasn’t. And neither should you be.

Human rights aren’t a privilege that the Government hands out to the upper classes or the people with ‘good hair’. They apply to all of us, regardless of whether we vote for the Jamaica Labour Party or the People’s National Party, drink Red Stripe or Heineken, or prefer Gaza to Gully Side.

The UPR is a reminder of how far we have to go to improve our human rights. A great Jamaican gave the world the song One Love, and it has become a global anthem from Azerbaijan to Zaire. It’s time we start practising it in our own yard.

Dr Carolyn Gomes is executive director of civic action group, Jamaicans for Justice. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com

That special perfect one…..

Here is a take on the quest for a relationship as many LGBTQI persons seem to be on especially at this time of year, the questions and commentary in chat rooms and social pages are ever increasing on the issue of profiling, persons offering information on themselves and seeking dating partners towards a relationship or at best some long term cohabitation that involves the proverbial “spirit tek” which includes obligation to offer sex often enough to keep or consumate the union .


The Emotions – What Do The Lonely Do at Christmas

The seemingly endless search for that lover in our life is on many folks minds these days, the scene seems filled with persons asking to be introduced to someone and of course stating the pre-requisites for meeting the individual in the first place.

  • Are we too pre-occupied with this Mills and Boon or Harlequin romance typed lover perfect for all our human intercative wants that we fail in the pusuit to find such?
  • Are we blocking our own progress in finding this “perfect one” by insisting too much on what we wish to have and ignoring the realities that we may never in our lifetime find that one?
  • Are we prepared to avoid consumating the much sought after union with sexual intercourse as most persons do thus not really knowing the person we wish to cohabit with for the rest of our lives just living for the fun, nothing more?
  • Are we so desperate to find that person to match the heterosexual construct of intimacy and relationships in order to “fit in?”
  • Why do we go for sex more to justify that we are worthy to be intimate with someone or we do we seem to confuse romance and intimacy with sex?

Many persons nowadays are trapped in some way as hinted in one or more of the questions above, the frustration is seems even more glaring when it comes to the seasons such as Christmas where companionship needs seem to rise ever so high for romance and love. This search sometimes lead to depression for some folks and probably reckless and promiscuous sexual behaviour in the search for solace.

The inability for some folks too to accept people as people without restrictions and rigid guidelines to enter into a friendship hinders one as stated before thus advancing the feeling on loneliness and self worth more and more to desperation I fear.

With the absence of proper counseling services for LGBTQI persons at this time of year I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw serious psychological fallout as happened some years ago when a friend of mine attempted suicide after his parents divorced earlier in that year then his lover of four years left him for another man. Death maybe not present in many of the seekers minds but certainly loneliness as many of us do not know how to be alone sometimes and require a person present to fulfill us as we feel empty.

This is not tosay we must not have ideals about who we want as a partner sure one can be discriminating in a sense but if we become more accepting of each other and not let outside influences cloud our judgement sometimes we may overcome the blockages we place on urselves in the search for love.

Why not let love come to you? but as we are socialized in Jamaica as “spirit tek” most persons overall in so called relationships are not in love come to think of it and more just because it’s convenient to live together and sex is the icing on the cake, then no wonder people cheat as boredom sets in with the existing partner I fear. Don’t get me wrong the issue of seeking the perfect one is not relegated to LGBTQI people but we will stick to us for now for purposes of this post.

There aren’t any relationship skills interventions present anywhere here at this time which bothers me a bit, to find a professional these days costs and arm and a leg as much as $JA8,000.00 a session which most cannot afford, most of them from what I have gleaned do not go into same sex intimacy and relationship issues so maybe what one has to probably do is enter these sessions addressing ones partner as a member of the opposite sex and as we are not a reading population books won’t help most as the material may be too heavy for one to digest given the search is more important than reviewing the information that will assist.

What to do in the meantime?

The conversations in the chat rooms and social networks help some as they may deflect the descent into depression or senseless decision for sex as a distraction, the hookups ting don mek it. Hopping from bed to bed to avoid ones own struggle with loneliness doesn’t help.

Talk talk talk I say this is one time where it may just help someone.

Peace and tolerance

H

J-Flag Gets meeting with the Pegasus ………… priorities please!!!

From the desk of Dane Lewis

JFLAG’s Executive Director

(November 25, 2010) J-FLAG was invited to a meeting with the General Manager, Hotel Manager and the Director of Sales and Marketing of The Jamaica Pegasus. This meeting was called in response to the issue of J-FLAG being denied the rental of meeting space on November 18.

In sifting through the issues, Eldon Bremmer, the General Manger stated that the reservation had in fact come to his attention and that he knew that access was being denied. He also stated that the decision was based on an unfortunate experience from a private party with members of the community.

The Management admitted that they handled the situation badly and recognised that a different approach was needed to address any concerns they had.

There was an error in judgment and action but this was not out of any mal-intent. They are committed to facilitating engagement with J-FLAG and have agreed on some ways forward. It was underscored by the management that J-FLAG would not in the future be prevented from booking the facilities.

The General Manager has promised to respond to us in writing, copying the partners indicated in our correspondence. We look forward to receiving same and sharing this with you if you do not receive it directly.

Sincerely,
Dane Lewis
Executive Director
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays – J-FLAG
Tel/ Fax: (876)978-8988
Website: http://www.jflag.org
email: admin@jflag.org

ENDS

Pink Report Jamaica carried the piece as “Pegasus Bows JFLAG issues Letter”

My notes:

Get Equal vs HRC or vice versa in the USA? …… so it looks here as well in a manner of speaking.

It’s seems to be from the outside all about friends in the business impressing and praising each other than really getting down to business of working towards better solutions for the community at large, our situation here is just like a Human Rights Campaign vs The Get Equal group or vice versa in the United States with the war of words where the HRC is accused of hugging up politicians and more interested in  paper matters and cocktail parties with all the perks and Presidential access more than the real LGBTQI issues on the ground that require attention while the HRC defends its position by saying it’s doing the right thing for the community in the face of problems on the ground, problems show up and reveal the true nature of the situation but it is glossed or kept quiet to avoid embarrassment. The impression is they exist to defend the President and not gay people.

See more on the HRC/Get Equal issues with US gay rights and DADT here: http://www.inthelifetv.org/html/episodes/121.html

“………serving in the suites of power while the streets of activism are getting tired and fed up?

Again we see the zeal at which things are done by JFLAG on matters of this nature while lives are still yet displaced, well who cares? it was more important to go after a hotel that didn’t take their business by which case they have a right not to take business even if it looks discriminatory, so what? choices are out there, leave them and their ignorance & hypocrisy. We can’t force persons or businesses to accept us or our money they also have a right to choose, it’s their loss all we need to do is put the Pink Dollar where it is accepted.

Be it resolved I am not against the J but it’s how they do business fortunately I have some inside knowledge having volunteered and worked there for over the life of the group until 2009 and having been a victim of homophobia and going through a prejudicial justice system in 1996 I understand all too well some of the issues involved. As we seh inna yard “he who feels it knows it”

There are many other properties that offer just as good amenities for the business client searching for space for meetings, it’s just beyond me how we, Yes I say we, as advocates (sadly I am still perceived to be associated with the group after leaving, scarred eh? lol) find time for small things when the lives interrupted stay interrupted. This reminds me of how the office space of the J was more important than keeping a homeless shelter opened so they moved into it. Interpret my comments as beef or whatever the bigger picture is what counts in my book, for e,g. for the past weeks we have a section of the community in literal panic and still in that frame of mind as more unconfirmed bad news of violence against women comes forth even in the face of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, though unconfirmed the worry amongst some persons is real and evidenced in comments and phone calls and conversations among peers and friends some persons have opted to literally become hermits in their own homes and are seeking to relocate from certain areas where a series of awful incidents against women in general have been happening. But our advocates choose to go after a rich hotel as that is more important. The other really disappointing thing about happenings in general is that no one is calling the flaws out. The establishment if you will, then we complain to the rest of the world of stigma and discrimination at all levels when here we are selectively going through with contempt for persons who are either not as educated or from lower socio economic classes.

We have a group that clearly doesn’t represent the bigger picture and views of the increasing communities it serves.

SAD indeed.

Personal interventions are good but not nearly enough …. 13yo structure not that good either.

One would have expected JFLAG given its access to resources and funds however small would have been doing the things myself and a growing number of community members are pointing out, individual interventions are limited as we don’t have the skills (social) and funds etc to do what is really needed but it helps in a small way. We must not rest until the lives who really need the interventions and representations are happening the growing frustration in sections of the community when you look to the very group that is to serve as a light for everyone is real, for too long programmatic fluff and political correctness seems far more important than real work on the ground. Some do what and when they can but what’s the point of having millions of dollars in funding coming to one official organization for 13 years plus only for it to almost stop at the payroll and expense departments with little trickling to programs and social services for the community with successive persons beating their chests, most of whom now reside overseas leaving us to face the music.

An ever-increasing number of unruly homeless and nomadic MSMs, a worried, dazed and confused lesbian and bisexual community and a disillusioned transgendered set of persons and a refusal by the J to listen to all views contending even dissenting voices is not a good image for an advocacy group on the ground but the problem is these issues are glossed over with fanciful letters and press releases to look good to an ignorant international community who readily believe based what they have been fed or made to understand all these years.

The moment JFLAG or any more formally arranged structure develops meaningful interventions and conversations towards solving the real problems affecting LGBTQI people I am all ears and hands and make myself available no matter how small, we have to do something to curve where sections of the community is heading.

As we say in Jamaica … it look sticky.

Peace and tolerance

H

View JFLAG’s letter to the Pegasus HERE