Americas / Commentary / Faith and religion

Jamaican doctor: homosexuality “inherently infectious”

Dr. Wayne West  (Photo courtesy antigayfactcheck.wordpress.com)

Dr. Wayne West (Photo courtesy antigayfactcheck.wordpress.com)

The fundamentalist Christian group, Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), is one of the island’s most strident campaigners against LGBTI human rights. The organization’s Chairman and most outspoken representative, is Dr. Wayne West, a medical doctor and Senior Lecturer in radiology at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

West regularly uses his medical credentials to make largely unfounded allegations about the link between homosexuality and HIV.  For example, in his sworn affidavit in the aborted case challenging Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, West claimed that homosexuality is “inherently infectious” and would lead to HIV.

When I publicly challenged him on this blatant fallacy (among other things, non-infectious gay men cannot transmit HIV to each other) West admitted his error and amended his affidavit.  However, he was only willing to concede what the science has already declared, namely, men who have sex with men (MSM) are overwhelmingly vulnerable to HIV.  What West failed to acknowledge is what the HIV community has also known for some time, which is that homophobia, supported by anti-gay laws, contribute to the vulnerability of MSM by driving them away from effective anti-HIV interventions.

Regrettably, and despite being publicly chastened for his reckless and unscientific statements, West still persists in peddling illogical arguments that are a discredit to his profession and the noble institution that he serves.

His latest foray into falsehood was at a recent demonstration against President Obama’s visit to Jamaica.  This event, and West’s response to it, showed a decided lack of logic.

Speaking to the Jamaican press about the anti-Obama protest, West claimed that if our Prime Minister kept her 2011 election promise to review the 1864 British colonially imposed anti-sodomy law, then she would somehow be submitting to US pressure(!) What nonsense. Regular Jamaicans have long called on our PM to keep her word.  In fact, two op-eds published in the Jamaican newspapers in the past two days have made this point.

West, also alleged (again) that the archaic anti-gay statute is necessary to prevent HIV among MSM.  As stated above, this myth has been scientifically debunked, as even with the law, Jamaica still has the highest HIV prevalence rate among MSM in the western hemisphere, if not the world (33%). Clearly the law does not work.

He then made another spurious claim that criminalizing people will help them to make better health choices.  In his words: “Now, if 64 per cent of persons were going to get diabetes, the Ministry of Health would say ‘No, stop what you are doing and rethink.”

As a medical doctor, West knows that over-consumption of food contributes to diabetes.  Is he therefore suggesting that we ban eating to prevent the disease?  Or, is he suggesting that we take steps to encourage healthy eating? If the latter is true, then I would agree.

And since the desire for physical intimacy is a powerful urge, like eating, and since we can no more choose who we are attracted to than what foods we like to eat, then the logical thing would be to encourage safe expression of desire.  There is absolutely no evidence that making people criminals will encourage this type of behavior change. On the contrary, it will drive them underground, away from appropriate health-seeking interventions.

But, there may be evidence that West is questioning his own strident commitment to the archaic anti-sodomy laws.  In a letter that he wrote on behalf of JCHS in response to an editorial by a major daily in his native Trinidad and Tobago. West declared that HIV epidemics “continues to expand” among MSM in countries WITH OR WITHOUT anti-sodomy laws.  So, is he ready to concede that these statutes do not, in fact, prevent HIV among MSM? Dare we hope?

 

9 thoughts on “Jamaican doctor: homosexuality “inherently infectious”

  1. Smh. I find it so sad that people are so concerned with what others do in their bedroom. It’s hard enough to come out without making it unlawful. People that live their life on the down low are at higher risks when it comes to STD’s. The worst part is how can you tell someone it’s against the law to be themselves. It’s very hateful. Anyway, I pray for these people but I doubt hate is going away any time soon.

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  2. The statement about Jamaica having the highest MSM infection in the Western Hemisphere is incorrect. In fact the USA has the highest rate …an alarming 63%!! and they do not have the Buggery Law. Also in places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many parts of Western Europe where the Buggery law does not exist, more people have become infected with HIV through male-male sex than through any other transmission route … UNAIDS (2010) http://www.unaids.org/globalreport/Global_report.htm.

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    • Dear Good Over Evil,
      I could not find the statistic that you cite at the USAIDS site that you mention. I did find quite different statistics that contradict your statement.

      In the U.S. — 18 percent.
      In Jamaica — 32 percent.

      U.S.: According to the CDC, “Results of HIV testing conducted in 20 cities as part of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (NHBS) indicated that 18% of gay and bisexual men tested in 2011 had HIV.” (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/gender/msm/facts/index.html)

      Jamaica — “With the help of influential MSM, an experienced research nurse approached MSM in four parishes to participate in a cross-sectional survey in 2007. … One third of MSM were HIV positive.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4000540/)

      You argue that buggery laws reduce the level of HIV. Actually, buggery laws reduce MSM access to health care, leading to increased HIV rates.

      — Colin Stewart, editor/publisher of this blog

      P.S. This is not to say that HIV is not a serious problem among MSM in the United States, merely that your proposed solution is the wrong one. I found a different 63% statistic in the CDC report, which may be what you spotted: “In 2010, gay and bisexual men accounted for 63% of estimated new HIV infections in the United States.”

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  3. For what it’s worth I received a comment on my reblog of this article. I left a mestage asking them to reblog it here. The comment was from the doctor quoted in the article who disputes the quote attributed to him. If you wish to see it I’ll cut and paste here. Let me know by replying to this message

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  4. Pingback: Homophobia, Marlon James, and Jamaica’s brain drain | 76 CRIMES

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