Freedom of sexual expression
Bishop Simon Hall continues to make incendiary remarks about homosexuality that incite homophobia and encourage men to be on the down low (closeted), a practice that inhibits voluntary testing, treatment and preventive strategies that target men who have sex with men. He exploited the rising statistical prevalence of HIV from eight percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2011 among men who have sex with men (MSM) to denigrate homosexuality as abnormal and pathological. It is difficult to interpret this statistical rise that may be the result of better measurement and reporting or higher actual rates of HIV prevalence. In any case, homophobic remarks simply exacerbate the problem.
Overall HIV prevalence in The Bahamas remains high [UNAIDS (2009-2010), 2001 (3.1 percent); 2010 (3.1 percent)].
The high HIV prevalence (86 percent) among heterosexuals was not a cause for reflection or moral outrage. This ought to have been a moment to pause and rethink our testing, treatment and preventive strategies. The growing rate of HIV prevalence of over 2.5 percent for women (53 percent of HIV persons in 2009) is a consequence of women having unprotected sex with men (WSM). A close look at the biology of transmission shows that women are twice as likely to be infected if exposed to HIV. The vaginal and rectal organs are both highly susceptible to infection. Hence, both WSM and MSM (receptive partners) are particularly vulnerable.
Conversely, there is no known prevalence of HIV transmission between women who have sex with women (WSW). However, testing has show the presence of HIV in breast milk, vaginal fluids and menstrual blood. There have been a couple case studies worldwide of HIV transmission between women who have sex with women through shared sex toys. However, the prevalence data indicates that the prevailing forms of sex between women represent an inefficient mode of transmission (i.e. cunnilingus and tribadism). This is a strong argument on safe sex grounds to “recruit” heterosexual women to lesbian sex. However, unlike Bishop Hall I respect and affirm the sexual orientations of all Bahamians.
This program of conversion that Bishop Hall has engaged has been employed elsewhere and repeatedly failed (See the American Psychological Association report on the Task Force on sexual orientation change efforts – http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf).
We need to turn away from the heterosexist arrogance of the clergy in The Bahamas who peddle the authority of God to subjugate vulnerable sexual minorities. We need to come to terms with the silence of God, God has never spoken (the Bible was written by fallible men) and make ethical judgments rooted in reason and scientific research.
Kreimild Saunders PhD