Published On: Wed, May 28th, 2014

STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION driving the HIV epidemic in the Caribbean – PANCAP statement

CCAS-PANCAP-logoCARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana - The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) affirms that Professor Brendan Bain’s testimony in the Orozco v. A.G. Belize (2012) case is not consistent with the stated goals of PANCAP to reduce stigma and eliminate discrimination. In fact, it is in dissonance with PANCAP’s ongoing work to remove discriminatory laws and affirm human rights.

Although the Partnership is inclusive and members are free to have their individual views and beliefs, PANCAP is of the view that, on principle, Prof Bain’s action was not compatible with his leadership position. In adopting an active position of opposing the decriminalization of anal sex between two consenting male adults in private, Prof. Bain has undermined the public health and human rights goals of PANCAP.  This view was communicated to Professor Bain during the Fifteenth Meeting of the Priority Areas Coordinating Committee (PACC), a technical committee of the PANCAP Executive Board, which was held via teleconference on 15 January 2014.  Professor Bain subsequently resigned as a member of the PACC on 14 March 2014.  PANCAP recognizes Prof. Bain’s significant contribution to the HIV response in the Caribbean including treatment and training and to the work of the Partnership and its governance bodies.

Our region is at a critical point where further progress towards an AIDS-free Caribbean is premised on mobilizing a strong and coordinated multi-sectoral effort to remove the legal, social and cultural obstacles that prevent universal access to a wide range of comprehensive and high quality health services.  Currently, 11 CARICOM States have laws which criminalize consensual same-sex relationships between adults in private. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law has found that countries which criminalize same-sex sexual activity have higher HIV prevalence rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) than countries that do not; that criminalizing HIV transmission harms HIV prevention and treatment; and that guaranteeing access to reproductive health services can help reduce HIV risk.[1]  Specific to the Caribbean, stigma is named as the main reason for the lack of attention to marginalised groups in the prevention efforts, and their general lack of access to HIV-related services, and stigmatising and discriminatory legal and policy measures are common in the regional legal systems.[2]  A 2012 Lancet Study estimates MSM prevalence in the Caribbean to be the highest in the world at 25.4%.[3] This is in comparison to 1.0% in the general population. The UNAIDS Modes of Transmission (MOT) modeling tool estimates that 32% of new cases in Jamaica and 33% in Dominican Republic occur among MSM. Recognizing these challenges, the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2014-2018 is premised on the understanding that ending HIV is not possible until the human rights of all people, and particularly those most vulnerable to HIV, are fully realized.

In response to the compelling epidemiological evidence that key populations continue to be vulnerable to HIV, PANCAP in collaboration with UNAIDS, mounted a programme of activities, which is continuing, under the theme, Justice for All. The aim of the programme is to promote activities consistent with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which all countries are committed. More specifically, it is intended to achieve one of the goals of the United Nations High Level Meeting Political Declaration (2011) to eliminate stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV by 2015 and to uphold the human rights and dignity of all. Phase 1 of the programme involved a series of National Consultations in Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname and St Kitts and Nevis and a Caribbean Consultation on Justice for All and Human Rights Agenda involving Parliamentarians, Faith-based, Youth, Private Sector and Civil Society Leaders.  Outcomes of the Caribbean Consultation are a PANCAP Justice for All Roadmap 2014-2018 and a PANCAP Declaration: Getting to Zero Discrimination through Justice for All. The Declaration will be presented to the Heads of Government for endorsement at their Conference in July 2014. PANCAP will adopt both a bottom up and top down approach to implementing the Roadmap in collaboration with its national, regional and donor partners.

PANCAP is convinced that HIV-related stigma and discrimination which contribute to the persistence of AIDS in our Region can be reduced and/or eliminated through collaborative programmes, partnerships and policies supported by governments, private sectors, faith-based organisations, non-governmental orgainsations, youth and our other social, regional and international partners. In this regard, PANCAP views this current situation as an opportunity for the region to engage in a dispassionate, thoughtful and holistic discussion that accommodates differing views and promotes understanding and inclusion.

PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners. Established on 14 February 2001, PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic. In this context, it coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS which seeks to mobilize resources for HIV programming, maximize the efficient use of these resources thus, increasing their impact, and build the capacity of partners.

[1] HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health, July 2012.

[2] Regional Issue Brief prepared for the Caribbean Regional Dialogue of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, April 2011.

[3] HIV in Men Who Have Sex with Men. The Lancet, 2012.

Click Tag(s) for Related Articles: