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$1,570 pledged of $7,000 goal
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By Carolyn Bick
$1,570 pledged of $7,000 goal
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About

Imagine being afraid to seek health care, because there is a real possibility you will be killed over the results.

Jermaine Burton, founder of the homeless, gay help and advocacy group The Colour Pink, remembers the day at Comprehensive Health Centre when she learned she was HIV-positive. Despite the grave news, her nurse warned her not to look upset when she left.

“I was crying,” said Burton, who identifies as a woman, and used to be homeless on the streets of Kingston. “[The nurse] said, ‘Don’t go out and cry, because, if you go out and cry, people are going to know you are HIV-positive’."

Her life was at risk, because she could be a target of Jamaica’s violent, deep-seated cultural prejudice against homosexuality. Since HIV/AIDS is associated with homosexuals in Jamaica, the safety of HIV/AIDS patients is also at risk.

While Jamaica's government offers treatment programs for citizens suffering from HIV/AIDS-related illness, many among the LGBTQ community who are HIV-positive, or may be at risk, refuse to seek testing or treatment out of fear they will be killed over their sexual orientation.

What is going on in Jamaica is an atrocious violation of human rights, and the term 'fish' -- one of many derogatory names for MSMs in Jamaica -- reflects the dehumanization of the situation. 32% of Jamaican MSMs (men who have sex with men) are infected with HIV, according to the UNFPA, and the stigma against the disease, because of its connotations, will only make that number grow. But it is not just MSMs who are hurt. It is the entire island. If already-out Jamaican MSMs are afraid to seek health care, how many more Jamaican men are simply afraid to admit they are not straight? If these same men have unprotected sex with other men, and -- because of fear, or because of shame -- do not tell their partners, or get tested, this not only raises the infection rate on the island, but also increases the rate of reinfection.

I am working on a documentary about the struggles Jamaican MSMs and other Jamaicans along the LGBTQ spectrum face in obtaining proper health care safely, in the wake of such homophobia. I will be focusing primarily on one or two subjects to tell the story. As you can see in the short preview video, I spoke with many people in the eight days I was there. However, I need to speak with many more -- politicians, doctors, closeted Jamaicans -- and visit other places, such as Kingston Public Hospital, the Ministry of Health, and Comprehensive Health Centre. I will also need to spend a longer period of time with the homeless MSMs I spoke with during my trip in December. I want to document exactly what they go through, when they try to get testing and treatment -- services we in the United States often take for granted.

This isn't just about human rights. It is about an entire population's right and fight to live. Help me fight with them.

Risks and challenges

The biggest risk I face is one of access, due to a) the danger to many of the people involved, and b) the fact I am an American with a fancy camera (not exactly the most inconspicuous person around). However, with the contacts I have made and maintained, as well as the fact I was able to get access through these contacts within the first few days I was in Jamaica last December, a month or more there can only mean I will not only have more opportunities to speak with people, but I will also get a chance to develop relationships with them, and speak with them multiple times.
(As a very important note: JFLAG and members of The Colour Pink are my contacts, and I will be forever grateful to them for everything they have done and are doing to help me get this project out there. I could not have even started this project without them.)

I will also run into difficulties finding Jamaicans who are not 'out', who will be willing to talk with me, because of the problems described above. I plan to get around this issue by offering anonymity, and asking my contacts if they know of anyone who would be willing to speak with me under the condition of anonymity.

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Funding period

- (30 days)