Writer: HIV/AIDS education is for all

Editor’s note: This is a response to a letter written by Stella Martin, published in the Compass on Thursday, Jan. 29. Writing in his personal capacity, Noel Smith is executive director of Cayman AIDS Foundation.

Ms. Martin, I am pleased that you have chosen the Cayman Islands as your vacation destination for over 20 years. However, after reading the article you wrote in the Cayman Compass, I am very much disappointed and offended.

I am a citizen of the Cayman Islands who has lived here for over 40 years. And I have seen how the stigma, discrimination and hatred towards persons living with HIV/AIDS, and also towards the LGBT community, has steadily increased over the years. I am extremely pleased to learn that there is an organization here in the Cayman Islands, that will actually step up to the plate and take the initiative to host lectures on HIV/AIDS and sexual transmission to all sectors of our community.

In my opinion, it is persons such as yourself that cause these organization to host “closed lectures” for some of these groups. If this is what it takes to educate the HIV/AIDS and LGBT community in order to attain the goal of zero new cases of HIV/AIDS, I will gladly support this cause. In the end it’s all about educating persons on how to protect themselves and to eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS in our small islands.

I have gay friends both locally and internationally, but I would never claim to be their “friend” only as long as they don’t ask for equal rights same as the heterosexual community. This appears to be what you are saying and if so, I do hope your gay friend reads your letter and realizes what sort of friend you really are.

I would also like to point out that this organization has been educating the heterosexual community for over 19 years here in the Cayman Islands. So to assume that they have not been doing so, and then write such an incorrect letter is very disrespectful. You may say you are not homophobic but I would disagree; your statement clearly indicates otherwise.

I have asked one simple question for many years and so I will direct it to you; and that is “What does a person’s lifestyle or sexual orientation have to do with you?” Further, how does it affect you if “gay” persons are invited to a support group to learn about the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS? Did you know that hatred, stigma and discrimination is not something we are born with, but something we are taught and have passed it on from generation to generation? We are now living in the 21st century and it is time to teach something new and that is to “love and respect each other. Matthew 7:1 says ‘’Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Maybe you and those “majority” you feel agree with you should think about that.

In closing, I say to you that to my knowledge, there are no organizations in the Cayman Islands that have in any way stated by word or action that they want to turn these islands gay. It is beyond me, why a simple outreach to educate this “existing” sector of our community could be construed as such. It is with heartfelt sincerity I will say to you that should you chose never to return to the Cayman Islands because of its gay community, you will surely not be missed. Further I will wish you all the success in finding an island that does not have a gay community. However, if you do choose to return to our beautiful islands, please remember to leave your homophobia behind and instead focus on and enjoy all the things that have kept you coming back here for so long.

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  1. Unfortunately one of the greatest causes and justifications for the discrimination of gays seems to be based upon religious doctrine.
    When I say this I am not just pointing to one religion only. There seems to be a common thread that condemns homosexually among a number of the world’s major religions.
    These doctrines may be 1,000s of years old yet literal observance condemns.
    Lets all live in the 21st century.

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