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Aug 11, 2016

National AIDS Commission Welcome Section 53 Decision

A groundbreaking decision on the constitutionality of Section Fifty-three of the Criminal Code was handed down by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin on Wednesday after a three-and-a-half year delay in judgment.  The ruling has polarized the Belizean society.  During litigation; however, expert evidence in the form of a submission by Professor Brendan Bain, former Director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Training Network, spoke on the transmission of the HIV virus through unprotected sexual contact among men who have sex with men.  According to Bain’s testimony, that population of men is most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.  Bain has since lost his job at the University of the West Indies, following an uproar from the LGBT community.  But in the wake of Wednesday’s decision we’ve decided to pursue that angle with the National AIDS Commission.  The NAC welcomes the Supreme Court ruling and today Chairlady Laura Longsworth told News Five that the court also relied on expert testimony from Professor Chris Beyrer at Johns Hopkins University.


Laura Longsworth

Laura Longsworth, Chair, National AIDS Commission

“There are other scientific studies that were used to guide this process and the data was taken from studies conducted in other parts of the world, Africa and so on.  It might have been by Dr. Beyrer, I can’t remember his name, but certainly showing that certainly the key population, men having sex with men, they are vulnerable or at a higher risk for contracting HIV.  What the scientific data shows, and I think that’s where the problem came in with that discussion, is that we’ve got to make the environment friendlier.  We’ve got to make that environment so that our key population has access to education and has access to healthcare and so on.  So the research clearly showed that where you have criminalization of laws and even without it you have members of the key population, the LGBT community, men having sex with men, are limited, they are driven underground and it’s almost as though you’ve removed their right to access healthcare from them which is not a good thing.  It’s not a good thing for the community and especially not for any of us that are HIV infected and I’m speaking not only of the LGBT community but also talking about men and women who may have HIV contracted HIV infections.  This ruling is very important but it’s not enough.  The decriminalization is just the beginning.  There’s a lot of work to be done.  Why?  Because we’ve got to prepare our environment, we have to get the healthcare settings, the point of care settings.  We have to have our community onboard with us.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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