MURDER OF GAY JAMAICAN HIV/AIDS ADVOCATE
MUST BE STRONGLY CONDEMNED
The National AIDS Committee strongly condemns the brutal killing of Jamaican, Steve Harvey, a gay HIV/AIDS outreach worker on November 30th. 2005. The NAC is calling for a prompt and thorough investigation of his death. Steve Harvey was taken by unidentified armed men from his house on November 30, the eve of World AIDS Day, and later found dead from gunshot wounds.
The NAC is also requesting that the December 17 concert sponsored by the Government of Guyana and USAID/GHARP launching a new HIV/AIDS campaign to fight stigma and discrimination be formally dedicated to Steve Harvey. Given the way popular music and concerts have been used by Jamaican musicians to promote homophobia, the NAC believes the Guyana ‘Don’t Dis Me’ concert, which is to be addressed by both the President of Guyana and the Ambassador of the United States, is the ideal venue to launch a sustained assault on this form of intolerance and discrimination.
Jamaican popular musicians have been in the forefront of the homophobic campaign in Jamaica which has led to deaths and maiming of men suspected of being gay. Reggae star Buju Banton, for example, is presently before the courts along with others charged in an attack in which a gay man was blinded.
The Jamaica AIDS Support Society (JAS) for which Steve Harvey worked was supported by Christian Aid, the development arm of the British Council of Churches and one of Britain’s largest private charities. JAS is involved in fighting homophobia through education. Specifically JAS pledges “to promote changes in attitudes and behaviour and empower persons to respond positively to the challenges”.
Harvey was described by Human Rights Watch as “a person of extraordinary bravery and integrity, who worked tirelessly to ensure some of Jamaica’s most marginalized people had the tools and information to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS”.
While homophobia – hatred of gay people - is exceptionally virulent in Jamaica, the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean is too complacent on this issue. It must bring itself to reject and condemn this barbaric behaviour and the attitudes which support it. Jamaican singers, whose lyrics inciting hostility to gays are banned in other parts of the world, are feted with no such reservation around the Caribbean.
Given our capacity for ‘follow pattern’, steps are needed to ensure copy-cat homophobia must be emphatically discouraged. Caribbean people are generally tolerant of many things. People of gay orientation have lived – some quite openly in communities - without comment for decades. Opinion-makers, particularly religious and political leaders, need to reflect how much they may be responsible for fostering intolerance and homophobia.
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The Caricom community in general has to decide whether it wants to function in a world governed by tolerance and respect for diversity, or to remain entrenched in bigotry, vindictiveness and discrimination. Those who have assumed leadership of the fight against HIV/AIDS – governments, donors and church leaders – have a particular duty to demonstrate leadership in this area.
We realize taking a public stand against homophobia requires a degree of courage. However, in light of Steve Harvey’s death and its implications for the rest of the Caribbean, the ‘Don’t Dis Me’ concert should not risk passing off as one more ‘feel good’ event.
Let Steve Harvey’s death be the start of a new era.
National AIDS Committee
December 6 2005
Gloria DeCaires (NAC) tel: 254-0311
Merle Mendonca (NAC) tel: 227-4911
Rev. Barrington Litchmore (NAC) tel: 226-1215
Sharon Santiago (RAC Sub-Region 1) tel: 777-5029
Shondell Butters (RAC Reg.#2 tel: 774-4227
Dennis McKenzie (RAC Reg.#3) tel: 254-0761
Janice Bowen (RAC Reg.#5) tel: 221-2209
Therysa Lewis (RAC Reg#6) tel: 333-2391
Ivor Melville/Marilyn Sobryan/Patricia Smith tel# (RAC# 7) tel: 4552462/455-2339
Sandra Rodrigues (RAC Sub-Reg.#9) tel: 772-2006
Carla Nedd (RAC Reg.#10) tel: 442-0877
The National AIDS Committee (NAC) is a voluntary body which promotes HIV/AIDS policy and
advocacy issues, advises the Minister of Health and assesses the work of the National AIDS Programme
Secretariat (NAPS) in relation to the National AIDS Programme/Strategic Plan. The NAC also encourages
the formation of Regional Aids Committees (RACs) and networking amongst NGOs involved in the fight
against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.