Tuesday, October 17, 2006

FROM PRISON TO THE WORLD

This info was sent to me by one of the Yahoo Groups. The article discusses HIV in Dominican prisons and was written by Antigone Barton, staff writer for the Palm Beach Post. It makes you appreciate how far we've come as it pertains to healthcare and human rights, but have compassion for those who are still struggling.

The caribbean has the second-highest prevalence of the virus in the world. The island of Hispaniola, which the D.R. shares with Haiti, has the highest prevalence of HIV in this hemishere.

Inside the gates of La Victoria Penitentiary 4,000 inmates live packed into a space built to hold 1,000. The stench of pit toilets fills dark, barely vented cells. Concrete slabs and floors serve as beds. Meals are scooped from a dirty plastic barrel. Many call this place a hell on Earth. Human Rights is a work in progress.

Efforts to control the spread of infectious diseases lag even further behind. The rate of drug-resistant tuberculosis is known to be one of the highest in the world. Twice as many people are infected with HIV in the caribbean each year than in all of North America, but doctors at La Victoria don't have any idea how many prisoners actually have the virus.

Of course, consequences of the prisons failings aren't contained within its walls. Wednesdays and Sundays are visiting days with about 2000 visitors: wives, girlfriends and hundreds of prostitutes who serve a dozen men or more during each visit. The supply of condoms at the prison ran out five months ago. Prison officials deny any inmates have the virus, but an American doctor has been providing needed services.

Dr. John May, chief medical officer at Armor Correctional Health Services in South Florida, provides medical care for inmates. His non-profit brings donated supplies and expertise to prisons in the Caribbean and Africa.

At any prison where people of high risks and low resources are concentrated, the rate of HIV can be as much as five times higher than that of general population. As the AIDS epidemic turns 25 years old, sex tourism and immigration continue to speed the spread of the virus from one country to another.

May thinks of the bigger picture when performing his services. Improving treatment of infectious diseases in developing countries, he says, not only helps otherwise abandoned people but also can stem the spread of HIV and tuberculosis in the U.S.

Why the concern? The D.R. has 66,000 of the nations 8.7 million people known to be infected and estimates as many as 95,700 actually carry the virus. At the same time, resources to treat the virus and prevent its spread are reminiscent of the early 1980's in the U.S. when most were still in denial and stigma thwarted major response to the epidemic.

5 comments:

Bahian Heat said...

Thank you for bringing this story to us. Often we forget the struggle that many of people of color go through around the world.

The benefit of hosting events like the two Dominican Island Heat events and the recent Bahian Heat event was to not only host and entertainment event in a tropical location with all its beauty but also to bring attention to the plight of those with less.

In DR it was to raise awareness of the challenges of organizations like La Casa Rosada and The Batey Relief Alliance and in Brazil we focused on the efforts of the Caasah Orphanage in Salvador, Bahia Brazil.

The most disappointing part of all our events was that for the most part our African American Gay brothers didn't seem to care. They were on vacation...ready to get their groove on. We felt there was time for both. For the few that did open there eyes and pockets to the brown babies with AIDS we truly appreciate it.

As you pointed out in your article..everything runs full circle. If the governments don't care about our people...we have to wherever we go.

Again ...thank you for your continued perspective and support Mr. Washington.

Anonymous said...

An interesting article that you chose to post on. It is important to keep in mind these figures probably underestimate those who are carrying the virus, and either don't know it or don't care. Definitely something to keep in mind while vacationing in DR or other caribbean countries.

As for Bahian Heat's commentary regarding his disappointment in the american brothers and their apparent lack of caring, I think this is a disingenious swipe at those who attended your events.

You and your company marketed these trips as little more than "come on down and meet the boys" sex and fun tours. Pix of semi-nude men all over your marketing material, a trip to a bathhouse no less, and, from what i recall, the insinuation that one of your contacts in Brazil was all too happy to make hook ups happen between your tour group and the brazilian men.

Now, not for nothing, but I'm all for that kind of trip, if that's your thing. However, for you to all-after-the-fact- whine about, bemoan over, and chastise those who paid good money to enjoy themselves without feeling pressure or guilt over solving the world's HIV epidemic, raises a few eyebrows as being hypocritical.

Yes, I am aware that part of your tour groups proceeds were converted to in kind donations to a worthy charity. And that's great. But I will suggest that the next time you want to take a tour group on a trip, rather than marketing it with pictures of luscious lips,muscular men standing under waterfalls, and intimations of steam room hookups with bronzed bazilian beauties, rather than that, why not just call it the Save the World Tour? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for the last comment! In essence, the tour organizers could do a lot more if they did some real organizing instead of just promoting.

Bahian Heat said...

Thank you for your comments. I hope since you saw my comments as a swipe against the guests and you took the time to look in depth into the Bahian Heat and the Dominican Island Heat site...maybe you also took the time to visit the websites of the causes we introduced to you.

You are correct, it has been our experience that building and nature does not sell a destination. Men do. As much as it pains us, this is what many people respond too.

Further, the point of my comments on the From Prison to the World artical was not to down any of our guests but to focus of the needs of many around the world.

As far as your comment about someone from our team hooking up local men to guests and making introductions, please name names cause we don't know them and you don't know what you are talking about.

Say what you like but at least we tried to do something positive for both the Black Gay community and the international community. I wonder if the last two posters can say the same.

Concerned Black Man said...

As one who goes to many events on the Black Gay circuit, Bahian Heat one of the few that TRIED to engage its guests with regard to charities. I chose to remain anonymous so that I don't offend any of other attendees.

It is what it is. Most people go on these trips so they can meet men. That is why people travel the Black Pride circuit, or go to Miami for Memorial Day weekend, or any of the other events around the country.

You don't have to help anyone, anywhere for any reason, if you don't like. That is your right.

No matter what you do, you can't please everyone. All I know is I had a good time.

More to the point, this was an interesting article. Thanks to Tropical Desires for posting it.