End Scare Tactics On Gays
Published: Friday | February 15, 2013 2 Comments
Javed Jaghai, Guest Columnist
The most reliable weapon in the arsenal of anti-gay Christian activists such as Dr Wayne West and Shirley Richards is the argument that homosexuality must not be tolerated because gay men are disease vectors whose sex lives put all Jamaicans at risk. Their use of data and their motive to support this argument are notoriously shoddy.
The Jamaican HIV epidemic is largely a heterosexual epidemic. Six of every 10 new infections will occur among heterosexuals with low risk perception, even though five of these have high-risk practices, including multiple partners and inconsistent or no condom use.
According to the national 2012 Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Behaviour survey, 60 per cent of persons who never use condoms, or who use them infrequently (47 per cent of sexual active adults), perceive little or no chance of contracting HIV. Evidently, many Jamaicans, regardless of sexual orientation, have a grossly inaccurate perception of their risk level.
Activism by anti-gay Christians shrouds the available data in homophobic rhetoric and gives an illusory sense of security to those who still believe HIV is only a serious issue for gay and bisexual men and the women who have sex with them.
The Ministry of Health conducted two major studies to assess the prevalence of HIV among gay and bisexual men. In both studies, the prevalence rate hovered just above 32 per cent. While these figures are alarming and noteworthy, the results of these two surveys cannot be generalised because they both employed convenience sampling.
Most of the men in these surveys were poor, unemployed and socially vulnerable. Not surprisingly, transactional and commercial sex was far more common in these samples than is expected in a random sample of gay and bisexual men – which would include men who are not sexually active. HIV prevalence in this population is, in part, indicative of their social context, which informs their perceptions of risk and their ability to negotiate the use of, and to access, condoms and lubricants.
Anti-gay Christian activists should be held accountable for wilful intellectual dishonesty when they use the 32 per cent prevalence rate loosely to advance their fearmongering.
In any case, the likelihood that gay men will contract HIV does not illustrate the pathology of homosexuality; it highlights the problem with unprotected sex compounded by biology since the rectum provides the opportunistic HIV virus with the most efficient pathway into the body.
Richards and West often say the anus and the rectum were never ‘designed’ for sex, but this claim is as subjective as it is irrelevant. Gay men do not have a monopoly on any sexual practice, and the efficiency of HIV transmission through unprotected anal sex is a concern for both heterosexuals and gay men.
HIV does not discriminate by sexuality; it is solely concerned with achieving access to our bodies through UNPROTECTED (vaginal or anal) sex with an infected person. By using a condom with lubrication during sex, the risk of transmission plummets.
In addition, when those living with HIV have an undetectable viral load, the risk of transmission is negligible. In other words, improving HIV-testing mechanisms and access to treatment is an effective way to reduce transmission of HIV, whereas criminalisation creates barriers to access and treatment.
I would argue that neither West nor Richards cares about the public health impact of HIV. Frankly, they seem more interested in entrenching their bigotry than responding effectively to the HIV epidemic.
Heterosexual and homosexual Jamaicans living with HIV internalise and negotiate pervasive stigma as they seek treatment and support from their families and friends. Anti-gay Christian activists actively sustain this stigma with their relentless moralising and insidious use of data to rationalise their obsession with policing gay men’s bodies.
Even if scientists find a vaccine for HIV tomorrow, the Church will still be thundering for enforcement of the archaic and unconstitutional buggery law on some trumped-up claim or another.
We cannot continue burying our heads in the sand while kowtowing to Dr Wayne West, Shirley Richards and their ilk who are obstructing the efforts of the hard-working Jamaicans tasked with reducing the incidence of HIV. It is time we say to them, “Enough!”
Javed Jaghai, an openly gay Jamaican, is a Lombard Public Service Fellow from Dartmouth College and an anti-oppression activist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
xxxxx ENDS xxxx
Lancet Special Issue on HIV in Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) July 2012
Summary Points for Policy Makers
The Lancet MSM and HIV series show us that HIV epidemics among MSM are fundamentally different from other groups at risk. These differences help explain why HIV epidemics among MSM expanding in low, middle, and high income countries, including the U.S., and why current HIV prevention and treatment programs for MSM are not working as well as they should. Biological, network, and social/structural factors combine for MSM and lead to more rapid and efficient HIV spread in MSM communities—individual risk behaviors for HIV infection contribute only modestly to these dynamics. New and more effective HIV prevention programs for MSM must reduce infectiousness through markedly expanding testing and treatment of positive men, and reduce risk of acquisition among negative men, through the use of PrEP, the development of a rectal microbicide, and increased access to and coverage for condoms and condom-compatible lubricant. Current prevention tools could reduce new HIV infections in MSM substantially, but more and better tools will be needed to achieve an AIDS free generation for young MSM. Stigma, discrimination, and social and health care level homophobia continue to limit access and uptake to essential services from testing to treatment, and from condoms to PrEP. Policy reform and structural changes will be key to expanding coverage and reaching men with culturally competent care. These realities are most clearly demonstrated among minority MSM in the U.S., where black MSM have much higher rates of HIV infection then other MSM, despite having lower individual risks for HIV. But black MSM also have lower rates of testing, health care access, health insurance, and successful HIV treatment—impacts seen at each step of the treatment cascade. Urgent reform is needed, in approaches, programs and policies, if we are to make real gains against HIV among MSM. Future efforts must be more biologically based, focus on delivery of effective interventions, address each gap in the testing to treatment cascade, and ensure safe and affirming spaces for prevention, treatment, and care.
Global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men
Chris Beyrer et al.
- In 2012, HIV epidemics in MSM are expanding in countries of all incomes. Available incidence data from Thai, Chinese and Kenyan samples of MSM suggest those epidemics are in rapid expansion phases.
- HIV infection rates among MSM are substantially higher than those of general population adult males in every epidemic assessed. A comprehensive review of the burden of HIV disease in MSM worldwide found that pooled HIV prevalence ranged from a low of 3% in the Middle East and North Africa to a high of 25.4% of MSM in the Caribbean.
- Biological and behavioral factors make the dynamics of the MSM epidemic different than for general populations.
o ThedisproportionateHIVdiseaseburdeninMSMisexplainedlargelybythehighper- act and per-partner transmission probability of HIV transmission in receptive anal sex. Modeling suggests that If the transmission probably of receptive anal sex was similar to that associated with unprotected vaginal sex, five year cumulative HIV incidence in MSM would be reduced by 80-90%.
o ManyMSMpracticebothinsertiveandreceptiverolesinsexualintercourse,which helps HIV spread in this population. Were MSM limited to one role, HIV incidence in this population over five years would be reduced 19-55% in high-prevalence epidemics.
o Takingbothfactors(peracttransmissionprobabilityandroleversatility)into account explains 98% of the difference between HIV epidemics among MSM and heterosexual populations—behavioral differences account for 2% of the difference.