HIV Frontlines: HIV/AIDS and Homophobia in Jamaica

Published: February 3, 2010

HIV Frontlines: HIV/AIDS and Homophobia in Jamaica

With all the news about the terrible earthquake in Haiti, and as we learn more about how awful conditions in Haiti were before the earthquake, it’s easy to forget that there are other countries in the Caribbean that are struggling. When one thinks, for instance, of the island of Jamaica, what immediately comes to mind are white-sand beaches, sunny skies and lilting accents. What doesn’t come to mind is an extraordinarily violent place with substandard medical care and HIV run rampant. But the reality is that Jamaica has deep underlying problems and HIV is one of them.

Although the HIV rate in the general Jamaican population is estimated at 1.4%, the Jamaican gay community’s HIV rate is an astonishing 32%. This appallingly high rate may be somewhat related to a deep and dangerous homophobia, which puts anyone who’s gay at grave risk. Gay Jamaican activists have even been murdered. In fact, in 2004, Human Rights Watch released a searing report called "Hated to Death." It examined homophobia, violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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