March 13, 2009
Legal and social discrimination against men who have sex with men (MSM) are major barriers to their accessing health care, according to a 2008 Ministry of Health-commissioned survey. Among MSM surveyed, 31.8 percent had HIV, 8.5 percent had chlamydia, 5.5 percent had syphilis, and 2.5 percent had gonorrhea.
Even with the high rate of STDS, MSM are reluctant to go to health care providers, fearing discrimination, said an MSM peer educator who requested anonymity. Despite calls to decriminalize sodomy, Jamaica's government insists on retaining the law against it. "Our main problem is that based on the law, we have problems interacting with each other," said the educator. "There are no safe places."
During the preceding four weeks, 27.7 percent of MSM respondents reported having two or more sexual partners; 25.9 percent reported having a new partner; 28.2 had a female partner; and 15.9 lived with a female partner. In the previous 12 months, 33.8 percent reported having two or more female partners.
It is difficult to convene meetings about HIV/AIDS or do needed programs when MSM hide their sexuality, said Devon Cammock, targeted intervention coordinator for Jamaica AIDS Support for Life. JASL conducts testing and peer education training for MSM with funding through the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance (CHAA).
On March 10, CHAA launched an effort to work with JASL, and with regional and Jamaican private and government entities in empowering MSM and other vulnerable populations.