I'm Ian McKnight. My present job is with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, which is a Caribbean coalition of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that do work with marginalized groups, among which we work with MSM [men who have sex with men].
In the Caribbean, men who have sex with men suffer extreme discrimination and stigmatization. We have seen where that has resulted in people being beaten, people being killed in Jamaica. We saw that recently in Nassau. We see, for example, where the violence is catching on in countries like Antigua and St. Lucia. We're also seeing deaths, and we're seeing people threatened.
I think on a day-to-day basis, persons have to be very conscious of how they display their sexuality. Particularly, I'll narrow it down to Jamaica and say that Jamaican LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] individuals have to be constantly careful of how they live and how they manifest their sexuality. That is a very high-pressured psychological state to live under. Many people find themselves having to look over their shoulders, having to wonder if people are seeing them, wondering if people are knowing what their sexuality is about.
Thankfully, persons are able to rise above that very intense psychological pressure to do their own work, to execute their own lives on a day-to-day basis. People are living productive lives. They go to work on a daily basis. Some people live together as couples. Some people rear children together as couples. Some people are in very good positions. It is true, too, that even [for some of these people], people know that they're homosexuals. People in their immediate circle at work may know, respect and engage with them on that level. But the wider knowledge, the wider public knowledge, is what becomes a much more threatening situation.
I feel that it's also important to state that there is a community. People come together to just to hang out and chill. People come together for educational purposes, so there are programs in place for the LGBT community, predominantly around safer sex and HIV issues. People party, of course.
There's that level of community. There's a very intricate underground network. When something goes wrong or something goes well, the ripple effect is felt very quickly. If someone needs help, people know the sources to go to, to call, to get help, and to address some of these issues.
In many instances, there is a protective network. Something might happen -- for example, something happens where somebody is discriminated against in a particular place. There are individuals who can make strong representation at the very highest level. Sometimes, even though it's done behind the scenes, it is very, very powerfully felt. People experience the impact of discriminating against a member of the LGBT community.
I think it's important to talk about young people. There's a group of persons who are very young who don't give a damn about what people think or say, who live their lives in a much more open way than many older persons do. For them, it's really pushing, pushing and pushing it to another level.
We see guys who are cross-dressing, some of them in public, which is amazing. Some have been beaten as a result of it, but others continue, and many of them are even challenging their teachers in school.
One fantastic story that came to us was: A guy was discriminated against verbally in his high school, and he said to them, "If you don't apologize, I'm going to tell JFLAG [Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays] and let JFLAG come down on this school." He got an apology from the school because they felt that having the wrath of JFLAG on them was not going to be something that they would entertain.
JFLAG has a very powerful and public stance. I've heard radio announcers joke. They have a kind of semi-comedy slot. One morning I heard one of them [telling] a joke which had a gay character, and he said, "Oh, God. I don't know if I should do that because JFLAG is going to be on my case in a couple of days." Things like those, small though they be, are some indicators that things are happening, things are changing.
From a policy level, a higher level, we are in negotiations with health officials. We are in negotiations with the police, all to make this better. I think we have to also bring attention to bear on the church, Sunshine Cathedral, which is a safe place for LGBT members and their family members to come and worship. That's a fantastic thing that's happened, where we have worship services of up to 100 persons on a monthly basis. People travel for two and three hours to get to these services. It's just a beautiful thing. It has a blog going with LGBT Jamaican-specific spirituality posted on it. It's http://sunshinecathedraljamaica.blogspot.com/. It has a lot of powerful stuff on it. It actually uses a lot of local, cultural things and really is turning around, rewriting, the history for LGBT persons.
These people were interviewed at the XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008) in Mexico City. All interviews were conducted by Olivia Ford, with the exception of Venkatesan Chakrapani, M.D., who was interviewed by Terri Wilder.
Comment by: Linda
Sat., Apr. 13, 2013 at 10:03 am EDT
Why do you have the specification -Gay Men in the headline? For 25 years this heterosexual grandmother has been infected. Why are we continually propping up the media bias by putting Gay Men in the headline? It's NOT a gay disease! If it's about being gay in other countries say so, but leave HIV/AIDS out of it.
Comment by: CWW
Fri., Apr. 5, 2013 at 9:24 am EDT
Why the countless regulations and tax penalties about smoking cigarettes and the secondary effects of smoking yet nothing is said about HIV and drinking alcohol which costs us far more. Think of the secondary effects of those behaviors? Far higher cost, emotionally and monetarily.
Comment by: Bina
Fri., Mar. 29, 2013 at 2:25 am EDT
It is now 2013. HIV is considered a chronic disease and not necessarily a death sentence. Staying positive is one of the most important aspects of any disease. However, would it not be expedient to avoid the risk factors for contracting HIV?
I'm a celibate (by choice) heterosexual for the simple reason that you don't know who has the virus. Sure, the man can wear condoms all day, but that would not make me feel comfortable having sex with someone who may be HIV positive. In addition, whom ever you go to bed with puts you in bed with every other person your partner has been with. That can be a bed full of 200 or more people. Not cool. Somewhere in that 200+ people is a link to disease. Not worth it.
I love sex as much as the next one, but not enough to put my life in jeopardy. Sex just is not that freaking important to risk my life.
Back in the early 80's when we were just beginning to hear about HIV, my husband went missing for 3 days. He came back with his right arm full of needle holes. Immediately I stopped having sex with him and left him after 15 months of marriage. I never looked back.
HIV is preventable if we just stop and think deep before we leap.
Comment by: Bottle Man
Fri., Mar. 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm EDT Like Bina, I have stayed celibate for the same reasons. Toooooo many things to catch. Not cool to go through life like this, but better than what can and will happen.
Comment by: James S.
Sat., Mar. 30, 2013 at 8:40 am EDT Bina, that is SO refreshing to hear from someone who can see the big picture. Today, we are addicted to everything...sex just being one of them. People need to step back, like you have, and see the reality...wanton sex can get you maimed or killed. But there's nothing you can do if you are addicted to it. You obviously aren't fooled by the pop culture and you obviously have more to live for than constantly getting laid!!
Comment by: l j
Wed., May. 8, 2013 at 3:03 am EDT Bina. You are a very smart gal. I raised two children that are celibate heterosexuals by choice. The reasons are what you have stated. It is not worth it until you can be sure of that person and their health and commitment to the relationship. Believe me not all Young people are smart enough to make that decision . That decision could very well save their lives. They grew up in a small town where STD's were rampant in their High Schools. Seems that to many Young people are not learning anything at all from the escalation of STD's and way to many of them are engaging in unprotected sex and are passing STD's around like a plate of cookies. Fortunately Aids has not been an STD to make its way around our small town High School YET. Hopefully it never will. More people need to think of the Possible Problems and not of the five minutes of pleasure
Comment by: POP
Wed., May. 8, 2013 at 5:01 am EDT I AM LIKE PRINCE I ANT AFAIRD TO TOUCH MY SELF NOW THAT SAFE
Comment by: Humberto Ruiz
Tue., Mar. 26, 2013 at 10:50 pm EDT
Ola saben megustaria conoser per sonas con el mismo problema que yo me siento muy solo bueno bay
Comment by: mark
(guyana at stjohn bosco orphanage in plaince)
Sat., Mar. 23, 2013 at 11:44 pm EDT
I will pray for all of you I am a gay too and I don't whant to have that. God bless you all and keep you well ok from mark
Comment by: DEB F
Tue., Mar. 12, 2013 at 9:03 pm EDT
I DONT BELIEVE HIV HASNT TOUCHED ONE FAMILY OR FORIEND IN OUR LIVES.IT SEE NOT COLOR.NOT ETHNENTICITY,AGE,NO SEXUAL PREFERENCE OR GENDER.IT BELONGS TO EACH AND EVRYONE OF US.WE SHPOULD NOT JUSDGE.WE SHOULD BE CAUTIOS,TAKE PREVENT MESSSURE YET.BE RESPONSIBLE.WE KNOW ALL THE PROS AND CONS ON HOW ITSTRANSMITTED AND WE SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE IN OUR HABITS OR SEXUAL PERMISQUITY.JUST TAKE PRECAUTIONS AND TIME TO KNOW YOUR PATNERS,AND IF POSITIVE IT'S OUR RESPOSNIBLITY TO BE FORTHCOMING WITH ANYONE WE SHARE OUR BED OR LIVES WITH.THE REAL CULPRIT IS THOSE THAT HIDE IT AND DONT TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AS WELL AS OTHERS.HIV IS NOT A CRIME,NOT A SHAME,IT JUST IS WHAT IT IS.A TERRIBLE TRAGIC DISEASE.AND I PRAY GOD GUIDES THE MEDICAL RESEARHERS TO A CURE SOON.
Comment by: jb
Thu., Mar. 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm EST
People with HIV are asked about their lifestyle because of statistics. Statistics tell us where to focus the effort to find a cure and do away with disease once and for all. Those who say it shouldn't be about homosexuality need to be more educated on the facts. According to the CDC homosexuality is the biggest factor when talking about HIV. There is a risk involved in everything we do in life, HIV is the risk for the HS lifestyle and others as well but primarily the HS lifestyle.
I have nothing against how a person chooses to live their life. For myself, I do not partake in the HS (homosexual) lifestyle nor do I dislike anyone who does. I am a bible believing Christian and with that said "LOVE" must be at the center of everything or my witness to Christ is null and void. The Gospel is the answer to every problem in this world. It may not solve your current issue(s) but in the end all will be just fine.
I hope I offended no one, if I did, I surely didn't mean it.
Comment by: tl
(Ft Worth, TX)
Wed., May. 8, 2013 at 3:35 am EDT Ok, Hetero and Homo both start with "H" so HS lifestyle does not make sense
Comment by: wisegal
Thu., Dec. 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm EST
i am a nurse for the past 23 years and started my career taking care of hiv and aids patient's at a hospital in houston, texas. i can honestly say that it was a profound and loving experience for me as a nurse. i love the patient's and their partners. gay men have the biggest hearts and i love to spend time with them. i do remember the suffering back then before the modern cocktails of drugs or multi-drug therapy became popular. i gave a lot of hugs and there were a lot of tears shed at that time by me and their partners when they passed away. my best friend was also one of the first victims in the united states when i was 15 years old and before they knew the term hiv. he was my best friend and i still love and try to remember him always. right now, i am not working with hiv patient's but as a nursing supervisor where we do have a couple of hiv patient's mixed in with the general population. i have to say that working with hiv and aids patient's has been a pleasure and i don't have one bad memory except for the passing of men at a premature age. i just wanted to make a post on here and let everyone know that where i live now, the nurse's have told me they love working at the aids foundation inpatient unit and that they are even taking a cut in pay to work there because they love it so much. i just want the gay men to know that THEY ARE LOVED BY THEIR NURSE'S and don't ever doubt that. Take care. Wisegal
Comment by: tonya
(las vegas )
Mon., Dec. 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm EST
i have a brother that has hiv and i still luv him the same no matter what i dont care that he has hiv @ all and 2 every one who has aids/hiv we are all the same no matter what and remeber that somebody luvs u
Comment by: Sam B.
Tue., Oct. 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm EDT Thats true...no matter how they got the virus....they shouldnt be discriminated against...they deserve treatment...
Comment by: Kailee
Tue., Nov. 27, 2012 at 9:25 am EST Tonya & Sam B., God bless both of you! While I don't know anyone with HIV/AIDS, what I DO know, is that the world would be a magically wonderful place if it were filled with people like the two of you! Your comments give me hope for humanity!
Comment by: Leigha
Wed., Apr. 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm EDT
People do need to realize the reality of what's going on and some people need to grow up and stop viewing homosexuality as a problem because it isn't one. I have homosexuals in my family and they are no different than someone who is straight in my family. I thank those who are trying to help and stop the discrimination against homosexuality. I am bi so I know what it feels like to be discriminated against. I also thank those who are trying to help others that have become positive. Thank you very much.
Comment by: Augustine Komba Mends
(Banjul -The Gambia and Dakar-Senegal)
Fri., Oct. 24, 2008 at 12:55 pm EDT
Profound thanks to everyone at The Body for making it a reality for global AIDS awareness at all levels work just right. Specifically, I would like to add my viewpoints from of vagrant (possibly homeless) adolescents walking the streets of cities of the Mano River Union and those of Senegal and The Gambia -- as these are the pieces I can relate to very because of work or leisure. AIDS for a long time back had been taken for granted in many localities until some some four years ago when hard hitting consequences of this epidemic forced many at top leadership levels to reign in help from local and international CSOs/actors to combat this scourge. In The Gambia, UNV Mary Rose-Charles Santa Yalla org saved many an AIDS-orphaned or AIDS-ravaged child from premature death. In Sierra Leone, Guinea (Conakry), Liberia actors played a pivotal role in adequately sensitizing marginalized communities about the best practices in prevention, particularly focusing on former combattants and gang-rape victims who ended up as HIV/AIDS patients. In Dakar-Senegal, a careful observation observation at HIV/AIDS diagnosing and treatment centres like Institute Pasteur and Hopital Fahn will show that victim discrimination/stigmatisation is almost non-existent; far lower than the lowest in all these countries mentioned above.As recently as six weeks ago, an AIDS patients (name and gender withheld for obvious reasons) showed up at my home and after careful coaxing and cajoling,finally consented to be taken to Hopital Fahn were she presently receiving treatment.This patients condition has been medically tagged by authorities as stable.
One thing about the HIV/AIDS pandemic that demands a continual drive in every community is an unprecedented scaling down of stigmatization , especially of young girls or women.There is is still a belief among a vast number of youngmen that the females are not only the major carriers but are (proportionately) also the largest.
This misleading idea must be stopped!
Comment by: Lilbit
Fri., Oct. 24, 2008 at 9:34 am EDT
HIV is not really talked about in my community. Ever since hearing about this disease I always got scared that I would catch it and die. I thought if I did catch it, I wouldn't tell anyone I wouldn't get tested. I just wouldn't want to know that type of news. But that was when I was very ignorant towards HIV. I figured I would pass it along so I wouldn't be an outcast. Yes, that sounds cruel but I'm sure I'm not the only one that has had that thought pass through my mind. Some even flirt with the thought and eventually do so. When I first got my HIV test, i was so scared. It was the most hardest experience I had ever had to deal with. It wasn't like I could run from it or make it go away with medicine like other std's. I knew once I had it I had it. I"m not gay or anything like that. But as a teen I was very promiscious. Thinking back on my sex partners and the risk I took not using protection was what frightened me the most. I mean I couldn't help but talk about it to my boyfriend, and sisters, my father and who ever listened to me. Everyone said it would never happen to me and GOD has plans for my life, and how that's the devil's disease. I believed only parts of that. I knew GOD had plans for my life but He has plans for everyone's life. He also gives us choices to. So if i make the choice to sleep around without protection and catch HIV that was my choice. Yes, he can heal me but I have to pay the consequences for my sinful acts. When I finally got tested, I had to wait two weeks for the results. In those two weeks my boyfriend got tested, so did my sisters and even my father and his girlfriend. That made me feel very good because I wasn't alone and I wasn't the only one who needed to know my status. I came back negative. It was a happy day for me. I still now get tested just to make sure I'm healthy, but I have a newfound love to help people with this disease.
Comment by: Phillip Lake
Thu., Mar. 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm EDT You mention God in almost every breath, but you twist the Bible and use only those parts that make you feel good and ignore the parts that make you feel guilty. The BIBLE is the words of God and Jesus. If what you do is right then I can take out the parts I want to so I can make it Biblically correct. Let's see; I am now free to commit adultery, murder, steal, or, or, or ...Does the word "Blaspemy" mean any thing to you. You either accept EVERY word of the Bible or accept none of it. You can't have the cake and ....There are going to be many who call his name but HE is still going to say "I know you not".
Comment by: The Advocater
Sun., Oct. 5, 2008 at 12:20 am EDT
I am having a time trying to understand what is the point of identifying a persons who has been infected sexual preference/activity... Why is this always a question that has to be noted during the test session. IT DOESN'T MATTER AT THIS POINT. The real focus should be on identifying and making public the statistics of how close medical science is to finding a cure... I mean there is all this focus on "Know your Status, Prevention and Early Detection" and after that there isn't much more in terms of information. Where's the information America??? Information on progress to identify A CURE!!! All this attention addressing sexual activity and orientation is a needless distraction, who cares if the sex is MSW, WSW, MSM. I must ask - just what is this statistical finding supposed to demonstrate... The only information to be derived from this question is "Wow world look at the number of same sex -vs- oppisite sex activity thats really happening today". Well, I have news for all the people of the world today -- this sexual activity has been going on since people have drawn breath and existed on this rock we call earth. Now if you are that percentage of the ignorant people who are waiting -- hoping -- and wishing know this -- MSM & WSW ain't gonna ever change. It not an abomination, it ain't disappearing or dying out. No one can beat it out or kill it off. So please stop wasting time. Remember this issue was not ever a main concern before the HIV/AIDS epidemic (unless there was that percentage of people who just had to point out that someone was Gay/Lesbain to throw attention away from themselves). In closing, I must stress the real concern should be on what is the latest progress is in identifing A CURE.
Comment by: DEBBIE
(LOS ANGELES, CA)
Fri., Dec. 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm EST GAY OR NOT GAY. LOVE MEN OR LOVE WOMEN, AS LONG AS YOU LOVE AND NOT DISCRIMINATE. HOMOSEXUALITY IS NOTHING NEW. BEING GAY IS NOT A DISEASE. HIV/AIDS IS THE DISEASE! I BELIEVE THAT PERSONS WITH HIV/AIDS SHOULD NOT HIDE THEIR DISEASE SO THEY CAN KEEP THOSE THAT THEY LOVE AND THOSE WHO LOVE BACK UNAFFECTED. TO LET MEDICAL TEAMS RESEARCH AND HELP FIND A CURE THAT AFFECTING SO MANY. THERE IS A POINT TO IDENTIFYING THOSE WITH THE DISEASE. THAT IS TO TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS TO NOT SPREAD THE DISEASE THROUGH BODILY FLUIDS ESP IN A MEDICAL SETTING! IT IS ONLY FAIR TO THE EMPLOYEES TRYING TO FIND A CURE TO HELP TREAT! HEALTH WORKERS DESERVE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES ESP IN A HIGH RISK SETTING.
Comment by: Moses
(North York, ON)
Sun., Sep. 7, 2008 at 1:50 pm EDT
Great work Dr. Paul from Uganda and the like from Nigeria, Jamaica, Grenada and the rest that make a difference in this fight against HIV/AIDS. I am from Uganda and know the kuchu (Gay) community well. It saddens me that the efforts within the community are stifled by the governments and cultures that still believe that no attention should be given to the individuals with this sexual orientation deeming it "foreign influence and immoral habit". We will fight with you...
Comment by: Peter John SaSellu
(New York City, USA)
Sun., Aug. 31, 2008 at 5:10 am EDT
First, great and many thanks to The Body for creating such an opportunity where people of all class, age, sex, national and historical background, and sexual orientation or race or culture, can share their plights concerning the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
However, as an international AIDS activists, it is really a very sad to understand that HIV positive people, in particular those in poor or resource limited setting, to face excessive discrinimation. I strongly believe, and I will continue to carry this believe with me, that the HIV epidemic either in industralized nations or poor countries or communities, is being driven my an institutionalized "culture of silence". To break this culture of silence many factors, such as public education, community advocacy, lobbying for policy and public practice change, etc. come into play.
Also, it is not very strange to hear about countries like Nigeria, Uganda or Jamaica to discriminate against people living with the epidemic. There are many contributing factors to this attitude. Thatís why strong community advocacy and public education are some of the remedies to some of the challenges facing people living with, and communities affected by the epidemic.
We must continue this effort and especially holding our political, community and religious leaders accountable. They must act to bring about change in our respective communities. Only through this that AIDS/HIV shall be a history and not another pandemic legacy for future generations.
My emails addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.
Thanks for your own individual contribution towards making AIDS/HIV a history.
Jean Pierre SaSelluno
a.k.a. "Peter John SaSellu"
"Whatever the mind conceive and believe the mind can achieve" - Napoleon Hill
Comment by: Ken
Fri., Aug. 29, 2008 at 7:53 pm EDT
Being HIV is not the meaning of Death, its the meaning of a new life to serve the community in this crisis. As the Founder of Positive Faith Ministries and Hope Center Ministries here in Indianapolis, In. currently an online ministry, and now a church service. Brings others in all walks of life to come together and except others for who they are, not what they have. Excepting your status was the hardest thing in my life, who knew God would use what I know about him and about myself to continue the work Christ first started here on earth. Being positive to me is not my death sentence its a reality check to help others like myself looking for answers to many questions and continueing the work set forth for us to do as PozChristians all over the World. Ministries and Missionaries spend their entire life helping others all over the World for the Aids Crisis and these individuals have been working for Christ for many years. Why don't we here about what they have been doing? Pozitive Faith for Positive People! Thats what Positive Faith Ministries used to stand for, and today, we continue to reach out to the Pozitive Community and show them a more Positive and full filling meaning through their life through the Word of God and teaching, preaching and Healing through prayer of Jesus Christ. Yes, God still loves everyone, whether they are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Jesus healed a women with a blood condition, who is it to say that she wasn't HIV+ or had AIDS? The bible doesn't say what she had, just that she had a blood condition? And Jesus touched and healed her! Who isn't to say that the Lord can't heal you, uplift your CD4 cell counts or lower your viral loads by faith. I have been positive for 13 years and as of today still maintain a healthy lifestyle and in the Lord, when its time for me to be put on meds; I'll except them just as I would except the lord in my life and the continued blessings that he has held on my life this far.
Comment by: jo
Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm EST Thanks for being on the front lines, a warrior for God and with a love for his people.Your status in His eyes is "dearly beloved".
Comment by: scooby
Fri., Aug. 22, 2008 at 10:16 am EDT
I am glad to finally see that people are seeing AIDS/HIV as being a killer and there are those caring people out there willing to step forward and let it be known (the truth about HIV/AIDS). Thank goodness for the International AIDS conference. My hat off to all of you
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