High HIV rates in the Bahamas blamed on homophobia

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

An HIV policy expert in the Bahamas says the island’s high infection rates of the virus in gay and bisexual men is due to stigmatisation and discrimination.

Director of the National HIV/AIDS Programme, Dr. Perry Gomez, was responding to comments made by the Baptist Bishop Simeon Hall.

In a statement, last week, he declared that homosexuality is “anti-family” and also a “deadly practice”.

Hall made the comments after the island’s Nassau Guardian newspaper reported that gay and bisexual men, account for 14 per cent of all HIV infections in the country’s population.

According to a UN study, the figure has nearly doubled since 2008.

Dr. Gomez, who was speaking at the close of the island’s 2011 Caribbean HIV Conference, said that the Bishop’s comments were not helpful, but added if: “you live in a free society […] you have to go with the flow.

“The issue with MSMs [is] that they are a very private group.

“It has been difficult in getting information from that group of people over the years and part of the issue is stigma and discrimination”.

In June of this year, the Bahamas Government expressed support for a UN Human Rights Council resolution promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

However, same-sex marriages and civil unions remain illegal on the island.