Continued Discrimination Against Jamaican HIV-Positive MSM Hinders Their Efforts To Seek Health Care, Advocates Say
Men who have sex with men in Jamaica continue to experience difficulty in seeking health care because of discrimination and a law that criminalizes homosexuality, the Jamaica Gleaner reports. According to a 2008 study commissioned by Jamaica's Ministry of Health and Environment, 31.8% of MSM in the country are HIV-positive. The survey also found that 8.5% of Jamaica's MSM have chlamydia. Additionally, 2.5% have gonorrhea and 5.5% have syphilis, according to the survey. According to the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance, the high number of sexually transmitted infections among MSM is connected to the treatment they receive from the law and the general population, including those in the health sector.
An unnamed MSM peer educator said that the population often is reluctant to seek out medical treatment for STIs because of a fear of discrimination. The peer educator said that the MSM community's "main problem is that based on the law, we have problems interacting with each other," adding that there are "no saf[e] spaces." He said, "Many MSM are not secure in themselves and so put themselves at risk by having multiple partners." The health ministry study found that about 27.7% of the respondents reported having two or more sexual partners in the last four months, and 25.9% said they had a new partner in the past four weeks. Additionally, 28.8% said that they had a female partner in the past four weeks, 15.9% said that they live with a female partner, and 33.8% said that they had two or more female partners in the past 12 months, according to the survey.
Devon Cammock, the targeted intervention coordinator at the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, said that MSM tend to hide their sexuality even from other members of the MSM community, which makes it difficult to conduct programs that are needed in the community. According to the Gleaner, JASL has been conducting voluntary HIV testing and counseling programs, as well as peer education training, with MSM. The Gleaner reports that the two organizations will continue to work together and with several other regional and national institutions, governments and donors in an effort to "empower MSM and other vulnerable communities" (Francis, Jamaica Gleaner, 3/11).