The Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas has called for an increased tolerance of LGBT people in order to help tackle HIV.
Male same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the country with those convicted facing up to 10 years in prison. In 2005 a gay cruise ship was refused the right to dock at the country for fear of bringing homosexuality to the country.
In a press conference the prime minister remarked that as a nation they should be supporting gay people especially when it comes to HIV testing. In what are surprising comments from the nation he said: “If you condemn that person as being a homosexual, that person will be afraid and be reluctant to go and get tested.”
Continuing he went onto say that, “If he doesn’t get tested and does not get the care and treatment and advice that he should get if he is positive, and he is positive but does not know because he is afraid to go and get tested because of the discrimination, the virus spreads.That’s why we are saying be light on those who may be engaged in such activities.”
Mr Douglas further added: “Discuss the issue, stop the discrimination, stop the stigmatisation and let us therefore discuss this matter in an open, matured and frank way so that we can deal seriously and comprehensively with the spread of HIV/AIDS,”
In the same press conference he also called for greater tolerance of sex workers although he did not call for decriminalisation of prostitution which is also illegal in the country.
Concluding the Prime Minister said: “Those who are engaged in sex work for pay [and] those who are considered to be homosexuals and who continue to suffer at the hand of discrimination and stigmatization … these groups within the spectrum of the HIV/AIDS pandemic go underground and thus refuse to come out and be tested for fear of the discrimination and stigmatization against them. We say that that is not good in the management of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and we would wish therefore that governments, including this one and governments around the region, to have a very serious look at the laws which continue to be on our law books that discriminate and stigmatize such persons.”
Earlier this month, Dr Douglas raised the prospect of equal marriage and warned that it would have to be brought up for national debate in the future given the events in North America and Europe.