Protests are growing in Jamaica after the sacking of a leading Caribbean authority on HIV/AIDS because he testified as an expert witness on behalf of religious groups who favor an anti-sodomy law in Belize.
The expert is Brendan Bain, a doctor who had been employed by the Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies – a public school – before he was canned last week.
Bain’s controversial expert opinion was that “the relative risk of contracting HIV is significantly higher among men who have sex with other men in Belize than in the general population,” according to Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson.
“This is also true in several other countries for which data are available, including countries that have repealed the law that criminalizes anal sex and countries where the law still applies,” Bain explained in his expert report.
Protesters, who hit the University of the West Indies campus near Kingston on Monday, say school administrators fired Bain because he expressed his professional opinion.
“This is a free speech issue and it’s a truth issue,” said Doreen Brady-West, an oncologist on the school’s faculty of medical sciences, according to ABC News.
Another protester, the Rev. Naila Ricketts of a Jamaican ministry group called “Prayer 2000,” condemned “homo-fascists” for Bain’s ouster. “They want to shut us up,” he contended. “They want to crush us.”
The university’s administration removed Bain as the chief of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network (CHART).
In announcing the firing, school officials blamed their decision on the loss of support for CHART among “a significant sector” of people who focus on HIV prevention in the region.
Bain proffered the written testimony that got him dismissed back in 2012 after church groups defending an anti-sodomy law in Belize asked him to provide his expert opinion.
Except for sub-Saharan Africa, the nations of the Caribbean boast the world’s highest proportion of HIV infection. As ABC notes, some HIV authorities have suggested that the region has the highest HIV infection rate in the world among gay men.
Approximately three dozen HIV prevention groups had denounced Bain for suggesting that gay anal sex among men is a significant contributing factor to HIV/AIDS infection.
Bain’s critics argued successfully that his testimony was inconsistent with his leadership of a group dedicated to preventing AIDS and played a role in “the continued criminalization and stigmatization” of homosexual behavior, according to ABC.
Jamaica’s National AIDS Committee weighed in on Bain’s termination, according to the Jamaica Observer, saying that it “takes no issue with the content” of Bain’s testimony.
Bain has a very impressive biography. In addition to his career as a medical doctor and his leadership of CHART, he has advised the Jamaican government on AIDS-related issues and was among the group of doctors who reported the country’s first AIDS case. He was a medical professor for many years in Jamaica. He is also an adjunct professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.
In 1999, Bain founded an out-patient clinic for people who have contacted HIV/AIDS.