Healthcare official says homosexual debate presents opportunity to minister

Published: October 10, 2011

St. John’s Antigua- Healthcare professional of more than two decades, Alexandrina Wong said churches can use the opportunity to minister to society or dismiss homosexual behaviours.

While she did not wish to question the stance any church may take relating to the calls to remove the anti-buggery law, Wong said persons tend not to come forward for health care once they are infected and this will increase the monies spent on caring for the populace.

“It now becomes a public health issue because they will have to be larger amounts of monies spent on care, treatment and support as compared to what can be spent on prevention, so therein lies the public health dilemma,” Wong said yesterday

Wong said it is everyone’s universal right to medical care and lawmakers should take into consideration every sector of society.

Local clergymen have publically rebuffed a US official call for Antigua and Barbuda to abolish its anti-buggery laws, and Wong said while the church has religious and spiritual mandates, the church can utilize the chance to reach out to individuals practicing the sexual behaviour or reject them.

Chairman of the Moravian Church Eastern West Indies Province, Reverend Cortwright Jarvis has joined the growing list of persons who has publicly dismissed the UN official call for the law to be repealed on humanitarian grounds.

While the American recommendation suggests that abandoning that law would improve Antigua and Barbuda’s human rights standing, Reverend Jarvis counters that as a God- fearing state, this would go against Christian teachings and he is fully opposed to the law being removed.

“I was alarmed when I heard the discussion on radio. The law was put in place for a particular reason and we believe that it should remain firmly in place. We should, under no circumstances be dictated to by any outside official with regard to this law,” Reverend Jarvis told OBSERVER. “We are a sovereign state and most of our laws are guided by Biblical principles.

The debate has been raging both here and in Switzerland, where world delegates attending the twelfth session of the Universal Periodic Review questioned Antigua & Barbuda’s anti-buggery stance.

Attorney General Justin Simon said while homosexuality is not a crime, buggery is, under the Sexual Offences Act.

The UN and members of the public have claimed that the law is harming the nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS by pushing people underground and afraid of seeking medical treatment But Jarvis said this can be viewed as an excuse to rescind existing laws.

“There has to be restrictions, and I don’t subscribe that this pushes people underground, because if you check Antigua & Barbuda, there has been people of homosexual orientation all along,” he said. “I am not going along with UNAIDS. Based on statistics of the past few years, a lot more heterosexuals are being infected with HIV/AIDS. To say that if people are no longer underground that it will prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, it might, but when you look at the statistics most of the infections are amongst heterosexuals.

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