Former Barbados HIV/AIDS czar Dr Carol Lady Haynes has expressed disappointment that successive Governments have not passed legislation against homophobia and other forms of discrimination.
She made her discontent known during a presentation to the University of the West Indies graduating class of 2016 at the Cave Hill Campus on Saturday, when she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science for her work, especially in HIV in Barbados.
Reflecting on her experiences and observations of prejudice and other forms of discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS since she began involvement in efforts at curtailing the illness as a Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners AIDS Task Force volunteer in 1988, she said more should have been done to protect persons from the bigotry that still exists today.
“My passion for working with HIV has been driven by the level of discrimination still faced by people living with HIV. . . . Probably my greatest disappointment over the years has been not seeing the bare minimum, specific anti-discrimination legislation passed in Barbados, or countries across the Caribbean,” she said.
Lady Haynes said that back in 1988, “I was struck by the extent of the discrimination against people living with HIV, primarily young people, or ‘victims’ as they were often referred to in those early days.”
She spoke of unforgettable examples of discrimination: “A young HIV person being put outside to live and eat in a container; and on another occasion when a young man was stoned when it was discovered that he had AIDS. These things actually happened here. Happily, that situation has changed, but not enough.”
“The more I worked with the HIV programme, the more passionate I became as I saw the depths of fear, hostility and discrimination that were the everyday reality for so many in this group, who were at the time for the most part anonymous,” Lady Haynes added.
Noting that much work has been done by Government’s AIDS programmes and non-governmental agencies, and infected persons to reduce the stigma on the disease, she said: “Nevertheless . . . the homophobia in particular has neither disappeared nor dissipated.”