GEORGETOWN -- The U.N. special envoy on HIV/AIDS said here Thursday that Caribbean governments need to repeal laws against homosexuality, but a Caribbean Community official pointed out the political risks in such moves.
"I believe that the existence of these laws contribute to infected and potentially infected men not coming forward to be tested, and I believe and I will propose that such laws be revised," Sir George Alleyne told a multifaith gathering in Georgetown.
The U.N. official called for a "civil discourse" between the religious community and policymakers on the moral and public-health aspects of decriminalizing homosexual conduct.
Decrying "rampant homophobia" as one of the "most egregious manifestations of stigma and discrimination," Alleyne said that few public officials in the Caribbean region have the courage to advocate the repeal of sodomy laws.
The Caribbean Community's program manager for Health Sector Development, Dr. Rudolph Cummings, told a subsequent news conference that most of the region's people continue to reject homosexuality.
"It's a political mine-field fraught with a lot of difficulties for the regional governments at this particular juncture and time," he said at Caricom headquarters in Georgetown.
"While we have made certain types of social advances in the region, this is an area where many governments have indicated that their citizens are not quite at a position where they can endorse some of the kinds of broad-based legislation which has been endorsed in Europe and other places," Cummings said.
Cummings said "painstaking work" would be needed to ensure that vulnerable populations like homosexuals and prostitutes are covered by Caricom's HIV/AIDS programs.