Jamaica: LGBT rights groups partner with government to tackle HIV rates

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A growing group of campaigners are urging health services to recognise the danger HIV poses to the Jamaican LGBT community.

Groups including Jamaica Forum of Lesbians and All Sexuals and Gays have partnered with a government HIV programme in a bid to tackle discrimination by the country’s healthcare sector.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that volunteers from non-profit groups are providing much needed aid and resources to the gay community.

The Caribbean has the highest rate of HIV outside sub-Saharan Africa, with regional infection rates highest among men who have sex with men (MSM).

Jamaica is one of 11 countries in the Caribbean that has criminalised same-sex sexual activity.

It is estimated that 33% of MSM are infected in Jamaica. This is the highest rate for that population in the Americas and one of the highest throughout the world.

This has severely limited the HIV prevention strategies from reaching the LGBT community, fuelling a regional epidemic.

However, movements by the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians and All Sexuals and Gays break ground previously unexplored.

Ernest Massiah, director of a Trinidad-based United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS said: “We are in an entire new era.”

His statement has been welcomed by the emergence of Jamaica’s ‘Colour Pink Group’, a non-profit founded in 2011 that provides outspoken aid for the LGBT community.

James Burton, the group’s founder said: “This is what was really lacking before: visibility and one-on-one connections.”