How AIDS became a Caribbean Crisis
via Atlantic Online, by Micah Fink
“If it were AIDS that were killing us,” he said, “I would use a condom. But it’s people, not AIDS, that is killing us. AIDS has nothing to do with it.”
We may be accustomed to thinking of AIDS as most rampant in distant parts of the world like Africa, India, and South Asia. But these days the epidemic is flaring up a bit closer to home, in the Caribbean. Indeed, AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adults there, and the Caribbean’s rate of new infections is the second highest in the world, following just behind Sub-Saharan Africa.
A major factor in the region’s susceptibility to the epidemic is its pervasive atmosphere of homophobia, which makes education and outreach efforts nearly impossible. Jamaica, which lies near the middle of the Caribbean and, as of last year, was found to have an astounding 32 percent HIV infection rate among gay men, offers a case study in how anti-gay attitudes have helped spread and intensify the epidemic’s impact.
In Jamaica, homophobic attitudes are reflected in everything from laws that criminalize anal sex, to the lyrics of popular dancehall music that celebrates the murder of gay men, to widespread acts of anti-gay violence, and a gay culture of sexual secrecy and high-risk behavior. Each of these factors is intensified by a religious context that defines homosexuality as a mortal sin and points to the Bible for moral justification in violently rejecting the concerns of the gay community.