About 45,000 Jamaicans are living with HIV/AIDS and for every five people who start Anti-Retroviral Treatment, 10 new infections occur.
Yet, since 2007, UNAIDS has reported that male circumcision can reduce a man's chances of contracting HIV/AIDS by as much as 50-60 per cent. Circumcised penises are simply easier to keep clean and provide a less favourable environment for the very fragile HIV virus to grow and thrive. Amazingly, this life-saving information has barely trickled out of any of the Ministry of Health's "conduits" (lubricated or otherwise).
The anti-buggery law and laws against private, adult consensual sex work not only violate the right to privacy of men who have sex with men (MSM) and the right to work of sex workers, but these laws also contribute to the spread of HIV-AIDS by driving MSM and sex workers underground away from effective HIV-AIDS prevention, treatment and care interventions.
At the same time, the government has cut spending on HIV-AIDS programmes by 23 per cent in the new fiscal year. The result of such mismatched policies will inevitably mean that HIV/AIDS will continue to spread and achieve pandemic proportions in certain populations, imperilling our health-care system already on life support.
If the government is serious about sparing the health sector from an impending crisis, then I urge it to adopt the following:
* Promote male circumcision.
* Repeal the laws against buggery and private, consensual adult sex work.
These desperate financial times require our leaders to make such bold if unpopular decisions in Jamaica's interest.