Response to Kevin Evans

Dear Editor,

I am the chair of Care 242, and I would like to take this opportunity to address an article featured in last week’s newspaper about HIV in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

I must say I’m very pleased that a member of the wider public has taken an interest in what’s happening with the HIV and AIDS epidemic not only on a local level but also on the international stage with information from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and looking at past events. In my humble and personal opinion, the writer is grossly misinformed and should probably seek to look a bit deeper in HIV stats and what savable here on the country level.

HIV is not just an LGBT issue on any level, not locally or internationally, nor is it treated as such. Erin Greene has never publicly spoken about HIV in the LGBT community because she advocates for the rights of the LGBT community. I’m sure this was an honest oversight of the writer and not an excuse to take a public jab at Greene.

Given the best of my knowledge, I will seek to clarify some of the myths about HIV and the LGBT community. The human immunodeficiency virus (or HIV for short) can affect any living human being, heterosexual, homosexual or bi-sexual. HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, can be transmitted a number of ways nonspecific to homosexuals.

UNAIDS 2018 fact sheet states that in 2017 36.9 million people were living with HIV on Planet Earth in that year, I’m here to state that they were not all homosexual men. For a more reasonable look at this, the Ministry of Health stated that, in 2018, 5,287 people were living with HIV in The Bahamas. According to the 2017 Global AIDS monitoring report (GAM) submitted by The Bahamas Ministry of Health, The Bahamas has seen years when women had a higher rate of infection.

The Caribbean as a whole, inclusive of The Bahamas, has just begun to do full research on key populations. So I’m not sure how he would have come to the conclusion “that the overwhelming majority of young male AIDS victims who had succumbed to their ailment were gays”. I think it’s also fair to point out that the first reported case of HIV in The Bahamas was in a heterosexual female.

The heterosexual and homosexual communities are not noted to be much different here in The Bahamas when it comes to being promiscuous. The writer is assuming (unless he has proof) that “Monogamy is hardly practiced by this demographic”, however, I’m sure the wider populous will attest to ‘sweethearting’ being widely accepted within The Bahamas. I’m sure we can agree that the reality is no difference of heightening promiscuity within the LGBT community, unless there is some kind of data unknown to me that monitors and reports the levers of promiscuity (sweethearting) within the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

I would like to bring a different view point to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Yes, HIV was more prevalent among the homosexual community of that time period, leading to HIV being labeled a homosexual disease. But I would encourage you to think about what the state of the world would be right now if the then President Ronald Reagan had taken the efforts to stop the disease at that time, looking at it as an issue of humanity. We can speculate that we would not currently have 36.9 million people living with HIV.

I can understand why some groups would look at Freddie Mercury as a hero, without him and the other advocates, both heterosexual and homosexual, fighting against the disease, we would not have had the treatments and support we currently do around the world. I would also like to point out that members of the homosexual community would have donated their lives to science for the advancement and eventual cure of HIV. I do believe it’s fair to say that the community that has seemed to be under fire is also the same community we should give credit to for helping to save so many lives.

I would personally find it hard to believe that the homosexual community is afraid to get tested. The fact of the matter is the homosexual community has multiple ways of being tested and navigated within the Ministry of Health; this effort comes widely from civil society and advocates within the community. What I would personally like to do is encourage everyone to know their status and get tested regularly, as HIV does not care if you’re gay or not.

I would like to encourage the writer to not throw rocks in a glass house and practice being a better Christian by sharing the love and not harboring hate within his heart. You do not need to approve of someone’s lifestyle or choices, as you will not be the one answering for them. I know my Bible taught me that all sin is the same in the eyes of God, and no one is greater than the next.

Within the people living with HIV (PLHIV) community there are advocates and groups; not all are homosexual and not all are positive, however they work together to better the community. Groups such as Care 242 work with persons on psychosocial support, counseling, HIV education and so on.

I would encourage people to find out more about HIV, along with the LGBT community, and support our fellow Bahamians, as we are all in this fight together. We should not allow any one group of persons to be a scapegoat. It’s time we open our eyes.

— William Moultrie

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