Speaking Out! MSM publication released in Jamaica.

Kingston, Jamaica. October 4, 2013 — A groundbreaking publication, titled Speaking Out! Voices of the Jamaican MSM, was officially released by Panos Caribbean and its partners in Kingston, Jamaica on September 30.   The collection of oral testimonies of more than 30 men who have sex with men (MSM) highlights the challenges they face, including HIV and access to healthcare, homophobia, stigma and discrimination, homelessness, and abuse.  The publication was completed under a project being implemented by Panos Caribbean, in collaboration with World Learning, and with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Indi Mclymont Lafayette, Panos Caribbean’s regional co-ordinator  (Haiti and Jamaica), said the situation of MSM in Jamaica is a key issue to be discussed and one that fits into her organisation’s mandate to help to project the voices of persons who are marginalised.  “We believe strongly in using communication as a tool for development and based on our research, we believe this issue is one that needs informed dialogue, which we anticipate will go a long way in helping Jamaica to address issues of stigma and discrimination and intolerance,” she said.   Project co-ordinator Jean Claude Louis agreed with Mclymont Lafayette, noting that the project was designed to strengthen the capacities of MSM in Jamaica to advocate and create awareness about the issues affecting them and to promote, through the media, tolerance and accountability towards this group of men in the response to HIV.  To that end, the project, according to Louis, has so far provided oral testimony training for MSM through three, two-day workshops held in Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. It is this group of trainees who collected the testimonies published in Speaking Out! He said that there was also an exchange visit to British Columbia by a delegation of five Jamaican journalists and two politicians in 2012.  Future activities will include media training workshops aimed at enhancing the skills of journalists in reporting on MSM health issues and stakeholder consultations around government policy and the challenges highlighted in the oral testimonies.  In her contribution, Mission Director for USAID/Jamaica Denise Herbol said statistics indicate that the HIV prevalence rate in Jamaica is significantly higher in high-risk groups, such as MSM, sex workers and among the population of persons incarcerated.  “HIV remains a complex issue among the most at-risk population in Jamaica, particularly MSM. The stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica continues to be a roadblock to access to care and prevention,” she emphasized.  Herbol added that the struggle for universal recognition of human rights and human dignity for all continues, but progress will continue to be stymied until we accept that each person is entitled to fundamental human rights.  Meanwhile, in the closing chapter of the publication, recommendations for change were made by the MSM. They addressed the need for understanding, providing better HIV and health care, improved care of gay children and honouring their human rights.  Copies of the publication were presented to representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and other stakeholders at the launch.  - END -

For further information, contact:  Indi Mclymont Lafayette and/or Dr. Hamlet Nation, Panos Caribbean.  Tel: 920-0070-1, E-mail: jamaica@panoscaribbean.org

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