Sat | Mar 6, 2021

Lack of legal status for trangenders helping to drive HIV discrimination – report

Published:Friday | November 27, 2020 | 12:25 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Jamaicans for Justice Executive Director Rodje Malcolm speaking with journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller during the question-and-answer section at yesterday’s public forum and research dissemination seminar at The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
Jamaicans for Justice Executive Director Rodje Malcolm speaking with journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller during the question-and-answer section at yesterday’s public forum and research dissemination seminar at The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

A report has pointed to the lack of legal recognition of transgender persons and the continued criminalisation of same-sex relations between consulting adult men are among factors driving a high level of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons and people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Pointing to other issues such as the absence of guarantee of the right to health in the Charter of Rights, as well as the “piecemeal and weak protections against discrimination”, it said that stigma, discrimination, and social exclusion against PLHIV have been impeding efforts targeted towards prevention and treatment, and making infected persons fearful of engaging public-health services.

The findings are contained in a Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) report titled HIV and Access to Justice: Situational Analysis of Access to Justice among Key Population affected by HIV and AIDS 2020.

The report focuses on the experiences of LGBTs and PLHIV, pointing out that stigma and discrimination remain high among those groups, with the 2020 Stigma Index indicating that 48 per cent of PLHIV experience discrimination at least once in their lifetime.

According to the report, a perception survey of the general public shows that there is an 11.6 per cent acceptance of PLHIV and a 25 per cent positive and tolerant attitude towards LGBTs.

Self-stigma remains high among PLHIV, at about 42 per cent, the data also revealed.

Speaking at a forum at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday, JASL Executive Director Kandasi Levermore lamented the lack of a protective legal and social environment for PLHIV and LGBT people in Jamaica, saying that it was incumbent on all stakeholders to ensure it becomes a reality.

She said that making a report to the police without fear or further violation remains a serious challenge, and that it was the same whenever a report is to be made within the ambit of the law.

“Standing before a court to declare one’s HIV status should not be the basis of discrimination. We need to assure people that the systems are in place to report, document, investigate and bring a resolution to matters of discrimination,” Levermore said.

Patrick Lalor, policy and advocacy officer at JASL, said that the prevailing social environment was limiting access to and utilisation of comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment initiatives.

He reasoned that it was a public health and a human rights imperative that all persons, including the most vulnerable, have optimal access to health services “to ensure the enjoyment of their rights to the highest attainable standard of health”.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com