POZ Examines How Stigma, Violence Fuel HIV/AIDS Epidemic in JamaicaPOZ in its August issue examined how stigma and violence are fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Jamaica. According to POZ, HIV-positive people and men who have sex with men are discriminated against heavily in the country. The Caribbean has the highest HIV prevalence of any region outside sub-Saharan Africa, and Jamaica's prevalence is 1.5% and increasing, POZ reports. AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 44 in the region, according to POZ.
Many MSM in Jamaica have been reluctant to disclose their HIV-positive status because they fear discrimination if their sexual orientation or HIV status becomes known, and popular entertainers in the country openly have condoned violence against MSM and HIV-positive people, according to POZ. The fear of violence causes MSM to engage in high-risk sex rather than seek "stable, monogamous" relationships, according to Anthony Hron, an officer with the Jamaican Network of Seropositives, or JNPlus. According to POZ, an estimated 33% of MSM in Kingston, Jamaica, are HIV-positive, although the actual figure is unknown. In addition, many MSM in the country have sex with female partners, increasing the spread of the virus. Although almost 50% of HIV cases occur among women and heterosexual sex is the primary mode of transmission, homophobia fuels new cases among all groups in the country, POZ reports.
In addition, many heterosexual men have been reluctant to receive an HIV test because they do not want health workers to assume they are gay, Brendan Bain, director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network, said. About two-thirds of all HIV-positive people in the country are unaware of their status, POZ reports.
HIV/AIDS advocates are increasing HIV education in an effort to reduce the violence and discrimination. The Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership -- which was launched in 2006 at a summit organized by The Caribbean Broadcast Corporation, Caribbean Broadcasting Union and the Kaiser Family Foundation -- aims to provide accurate information about HIV through the media. CBMP launched LIVE UP earlier this year to encourage and empower youth to learn more about HIV. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays and other advocacy groups are increasing efforts to reduce attacks against MSM and HIV-positive people, POZ reports (Scott, POZ, August 2007). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.