Doctor Robert Carr from the University of the West Indies introduced the session with an account of his advocacy work with the media in Jamaica on the issues around the rights of sex workers and of men who have sex with men, with the aim of raising public awareness and addressing hostile public attitudes.
Working in HIV prevention work – handing out condoms to sex workers – Robert found that sex workers would often come in showing signs of having been beaten up. The wider context of social exclusion was destroying the intervention, and the situation was similar for gay men. It was therefore necessary to focus on the human rights abuses first, even while at that time people only wanted to talk about human rights for people living with HIV and not for sex workers or for gay men.
Early on, when this work first started, there were instances of gay men being chased by mobs would run into a police station for protection and the police would chase them back out again to the angry mob, instead of protecting them. When a newspaper article about gay men and women who had come together through religion, called ‘Inside a Gay Church’ was published there was a strong backlash with readers writing in stating that “homosexual acts are contrary to natural law” and “homosexual action…evokes moral concern”.