HIV Frontlines: HIV/AIDS and Homophobia in Jamaica
An Interview With Kwame Dawes and Nancy Mahon
February 3, 2010
Table of Contents
Welcome to HIV Frontlines: Global Edition. In this series, we talk to a range of people throughout the world. From China to Ukraine to Rwanda, these inspiring people are doing their part to make a difference in regions of the world where access to HIV treatment and care is only a shadow of what is generally available in the U.S. Through these interviews, we'll get a glimpse of the realities of HIV in some of the world's poorest areas.
Bonnie Goldman: With all the news about the terrible earthquake in Haiti, and as we learn more about how awful conditions in Haiti were before the earthquake, it's easy to forget that there are other countries in the Caribbean that are struggling. When one thinks, for instance, of the island of Jamaica, what immediately comes to mind are white-sand beaches, sunny skies and lilting accents. What doesn't come to mind is an extraordinarily violent place with substandard medical care and HIV run rampant. But the reality is that Jamaica has deep underlying problems and HIV is one of them.
Although the HIV rate in the general Jamaican population is estimated at 1.4%, the Jamaican gay community's HIV rate is an astonishing 32%. This appallingly high rate may be somewhat related to a deep and dangerous homophobia, which puts anyone who's gay at grave risk. Gay Jamaican activists have even been murdered. In fact, in 2004, Human Rights Watch released a searing report called "Hated to Death." It examined homophobia, violence and Jamaica's HIV/AIDS epidemic.
To find out more about the current HIV/AIDS situation in Jamaica, I spoke with poet Kwame Dawes who grew up in Jamaica. In 2007, he traveled to Jamaica where he looked at how HIV/AIDS has shaped the lives of so many people. The result was an amazing multimedia reporting project that he helped produce called "Hope: Living and Loving With HIV in Jamaica."
Also joining me is Nancy Mahon, a senior vice president at MAC Cosmetics and executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, which has provided over $145 million to help people around the world affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, they helped fund Kwame's project. Welcome, Kwame and Nancy. Thank you so much for joining me.
This article was provided by TheBodyPRO.com.
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