JA gays fight to get into UN AIDS meeting

Description: World leaders and civil society activists are gathering this week at UN Headquarters for the 2008 High-Level Meeting on AIDS. The goal of the meeting is to reevaluate the amount of progress the international community has made in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, some governments are being criticized for obstructing meaningful advocacy and implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention tactics. Specifically, the Jamaican government has been chastised in recent weeks for letting stigma fester on the island around the HIV/AIDS and sexuality. The Jamaican government went as far as preventing its country’s leading gay rights group from even attending the New York meeting. Bloggers throughout the Caribbean are taking the country’s government to task.

Tools Being Used: Blogs

What Are They Doing: Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) was denied accreditation to the UN event last week after representatives of the Jamaican government complained about their presence only after the group was given clearance to attend the meeting months before.

“J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move,” said J-FLAG spokesperson Jason McFarlane. “The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic. Silencing J-FLAG – Jamaica’s only LGBT organization – undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.”

J-FLAG used their blog to update readers on their efforts to get into the UN meeting. The blog has also become an activist space to share pertinent information and advice with LGBT Jamaicans and their allies, such as counseling and referrals on asylum cases, as well as updates on homophobic behavior on the island. In recent days progressive bloggers throughout the Caribbean have also criticized the Ministry of Health’s decision to abruptly fire Annesha Taylor, an HIV-positive spokesperson for the MOH’s HIV/AIDS campaign, because she became pregnant and allegations that Jamaica feared a backlash from the US government for not using its funds to promote abstinence. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding came under fire two weeks ago by other bloggers for his controversial appearance on BBC’s HardTalk, where he stated that gays had no place in his government.

While stigma around homosexuality and HIV/AIDS have been hard topics to discuss publicly in Jamaica for many years, social media is opening a new door to have conversations and advocate on these issues.

Outcome: Tuesday afternoon a J-FLAG representative wrote a post on their blog, saying that after much handwringing with the UN civil society task force, J-FLAG was finally admitted to the UN AIDS meeting.

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