PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten — Officials attending the 10th Annual General Meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnerships Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) here have renewed calls for the removal of anti-gay laws in the Caribbean.
The outgoing Chairman of PANCAP, St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas, said that the region could continue to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic by making a renewed commitment to revisit the discriminatory laws.
Dr Douglas said leaders have used the meeting to contemplate “how we are going to bring back onto the table, though it has serious political overtones, how are we going to reemphasize the need for a revisiting of the laws that have been established in our countries for so many years that continue to discriminate against people who are living with HIV/AIDS and who have been affected as a result of HIV/AIDS”.
“This is the new commitment that we take into this new era beyond 10 years of PANCAP,” Douglas added.
Proponents for the repeal of legislation prohibiting gay sex maintain that the law made no sense and was preventing homosexuals from accessing counselling and testing services for HIV and AIDS.
Former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan who also attended the PANCAP meeting said he was happy to hear Douglas stress the importance of removing discriminatory and prejudicial barriers.
"I think it is extremely important that that this be done as quickly as possible. I would also say that as we move forward we are going to need creativity, leadership and sustained effort," he said.
Meantime, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé noting that the problem was not unique to the Caribbean said that there are 80 countries in the world with homophobic laws, and 51 countries which do not allow people living with HIV the right to enter or stay in their home country.
“It is a global issue and we need to address it in a very strategic manner. For me what is important in the case of the Caribbean is to review the laws because you have two-thirds of the countries in the Caribbean who have those punitive laws against most at risk populations,” Sidibé said.