By Floyd French

Observer Reporter

(Basseterre, St. Kitts) –  St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas said there is a need to begin frank and open discussion on decriminalising homosexuality and prostitution as a strategy in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Douglas made his remarks to the BBC Caribbean Report on June 16

Prime Minister Douglas is responsible for Health at the CARICOM level.

The interview with the BBC came after Prime Minister Douglas attended a United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS on June 10 and 11.  The UN meeting was to review progress made in implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.

“I am very certain one way by which we can begin to tackle what is the problem before us is to speak openly about homosexuality, about prostitution, look at how these relate to the spread of the disease and begin to talk positively about reversing it,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he was willing to allow St. Kitts-Nevis to host a forum of Caribbean Attorneys-General to explore the decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution.

“I would not mind St. Kitts and Nevis being host country for the Attorneys-General to come in look at all of the laws which are on our books not only here in St. Kitts and Nevis, in the Caribbean wherever they are,” he said.

Prime Minister Douglas’s statements were short of committing St. Kitts-Nevis to take the lead in decriminalising those practices, but he reiterated that he wanted to have a review of the laws discussed.

“Once the practice is not criminalised people, we believe, would be able to come forward.  You would not, say, have for example a man who is having sex with another man hiding it from his family, not going to the appropriate clinic, getting the appropriate advice and thus continuing the spread of this dreaded disease,” he stressed.

In the spirit of diplomacy and respect for cultural differences, the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS does not identify decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution in explicit terms as key to fight HIV/AIDS.  However, the Declaration identifies stigma and discriminatory as hindrances in the fight.  Numerous documents and reports on HIV/AIDS produced by UNAIDS have recognised homosexuals (MSM – Men Sleeping Men) and prostitutes as vulnerable groups and the decriminalisation of those sexual practices and the elimination of stigma and discrimination against those practices as features of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy.