Dr. Mathias Ofre, left, National HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator with Mrs. Lucine Pemberton-Vaughn, Health Educator/Counsellor.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Being a homosexual can result in rejection by family, being ostracized by the community, fear of getting tested for HIV/AIDS, and even serving jail time. Against this backdrop, St. Kitts and Nevis health officials say that decriminalizing homosexuality is critical to combatting HIV/AIDS.

“If you criminalize that situation, that process [homosexuality], it stops the people from coming out and being able to do the test,” said Dr. Mathias Ofre, National HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator. “If I am coming out to do the test as a homosexual individual, you will jail me for that… so I will not want to come. It will not mitigate the transmission, but instead, fuel it, agitate for more transmission of the virus.”

Dr. Ofre noted that where the decriminalization process is concerned, it is important for the relevant bodies to peruse the systems and find a suitable way to approach the issue “in a way that will prevent stigmatism and allow people to come out.

“How can we properly diagnose these people if they are not coming out to do the test,” he asked. “If they are open enough, I accept you for who you are, and that gives me an opportunity to reach you, educate you, and also help you by providing proper treatment that would mitigate the transmission.”

Dr. Ofre debunked the rumours of HIV/AIDS being a homosexual disease.

“There are people who are bisexual so that could also transmit from both the male partners to the female partners and that is how it spreads,” explained Dr. Ofre. “We have to apply wisdom on how we handle situations. Straight individuals can get infected. That is why we said having unprotected sex could predispose an individual to be infected.”

“Stigmatizing and discriminating against a person’s sexual orientation does not help,” said Mrs. Lucine Pemberton-Vaughn, Health Educator/Counsellor. “It is time for people to move away from such behaviour.

“People seem to think that if you are more accepting you are condoning what they do,” said Mrs. Pemberton-Vaughn. “We have to understand that just as how you have to answer to God for your lying, stealing, and forgiveness, homosexuals also have to answer to God. We are not condoning, we are saying that we should let people be who they want to be, realizing that God will judge each of us.”

Mrs. Pemberton-Vaughn implored everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation to be responsible in their sexual practices, to use protection, and to get tested.