December 5th, 2005

Jamaican HIV defender murdered on eve of World AIDS Day /01.12.05

Jamaican HIV defender murdered on eve of World AIDS Day /01.12.05

Steve Harvey from Christian Aid partner, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), has been murdered. He ran a programme providing support to gay men and sex workers.>>

Three men, armed with guns, broke into Mr Harvey's house and demanded money. They then forced him to carry valuables into the JASL car parked outside.
One of the gun men was reported to have said to Mr Harvey and his two house-mates: `We hear that you are gay'. Two of the men denied it. They were tied up and left in the house. Steve was forced into the car which then sped away. Two hours later, he was found, shot dead.
Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. With a population of only 2.7 million people, the country has seen 1,383 murders in 2005 alone. Gun violence is common and homophobia rife.
Homophobia

Victims of homophobic violence are often too scared to appeal to the police for protection. According to Human Rights Watch: `Police actively support homophobic violence, fail to investigate complaints of abuse, and arrest and detain [men] based on their alleged homosexual conduct.'
Last year, the founder of Jamaica's gay rights movement, Brian Williamson, was murdered. Investigators claimed the motive for murder was robbery, since a safe was missing and the apartment ransacked. However, many believe the killing was a hate crime.
Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica: men convicted of homosexual activity can face ten years' imprisonment with hard labour.
A Christian Aid spokesperson said: 'JASL defends the rights of people who are not considered to have any rights in Jamaica. The work they do is very dangerous.'
HIV
Human Rights Watch also states: `Jamaica's growing HIV/AIDS epidemic is unfolding in the context of widespread violence and discrimination against people living with and at high risk of HIV/AIDS, especially men who have sex with men.'
An estimated 1.5 per cent of Jamaicans are living with HIV/AIDs. Although two thirds of HIV transmission is through heterosexual sex, many people still blame gay men for spreading the virus.
On Sunday, Mr Harvey led JASL's annual candle-lit vigil in memory of those killed by HIV. JASL is now mourning the death of one of their strongest defendants of people living with HIV/AIDS.