The Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) is renewing its call for an end to sodomy laws, which it said were getting in the way of attaining the goal of 100 per cent treatment for persons living with HIV.
PANCAP Director Dereck Springer said since same sex activities can be penalized by imprisonment under these laws, vulnerable groups such as gays and lesbians were reluctant to come forward to access vital treatment.
“[With] the legislation in many of the countries in the region, same sex relations in private is criminalized. People might be saying, ‘yes it’s criminalized but why would that prevent someone from accessing services particularly when the legislation is not enforced?’
“Just knowing that it is criminalized several of our health care providers and others who encounter, and have to provide services to key members populations like men who have sex with men, take it upon themselves to discriminate because they feel that the law is saying that this is not legal,” Springer told Barbados TODAY.
However, sodomy laws were not the only ones of concern to the regional partnership.
Springer also pointed to laws which allow teenagers at the age of consent, usually 16, to have sex, yet restrict their access to sexual or reproductive health services.
“They cannot access [these] until they are 18 years old. If they are below that they have to be accompanied by their parent or an adult. That prevents many young people from being able to access prevention services,” he stressed.
PANCAP was established by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government in 2001 in response to the threat of HIV to the region’s human development.
It is a partnership of governments, regional civil society organizations, regional institutions and organizations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners.
PANCAP provides a voice to the community and civil society, including people living with HIV and key population groups such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, migrants and youth, at the highest level of decision making.
In addition, the organization focuses on policy coordination in relation to human rights, advocacy, stigma and discrimination reduction, civil society, harmonization of donors and technical agencies in HIV.
Earlier this year the organization praised Barbados for its efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic here by 2030.
It made special mention of the Ladymeade Reference Unit and the Treat All approach to HIV as programmes the region should emulate.