Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays: Blog on Hiatus Until January 16th

Well, this will be a pretty quiet place for the next few days. I will be heading upstate to spend the next week at my mother's place and then it's off to South America to visit my dad and my family with my boyfriend Raul. Not sure I will have internet access so it might be mid-January until you see additional postings here.

So, might as well wish everyone a great holiday season and the best for the new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Brokeback: What Sticks With You

Promise this will be my last post on Brokeback, God knows you can read about it just about everywhere else.

Not everyone I know has liked the film as much as I did. Some say that it's too slow and takes its time (when I felt that it was a way to establish the lyrical and understated tone of the story), others have complained that the soundtrack sometimes overwhelms the dialogue (I'm not sure I noticed this though Heath Ledger's character, in particular, is so inarticulate at points that he mumbles his responses out, which might take a couple of viewings to understand). The songs chosen for certain scenes ("King of the Road!...") also capture the passage of time perfectly, even if some of the make-up used in later years doesn't quite work that well.

But it's those small details, those particular small moments, that sometimes grab a hold of you and stick with you long after watching the film, particularly if they mirror some of your own experiences. Some friends who weren't as thrilled about the movie when they saw it have told me that they've been surprised by how it grows on you after you leave the theatre.

In any case, for me, that "whoa" moment comes in during the later scenes, when Ennis and Jack are saying goodbye after one of the "fishing" trips that they schedule once or twice a year to spend time with each other. Jack makes no qualms about his desire to leave his wife and kids, if only Ennis will join him in moving together to the ranch owned by Jack's parents. But he is also frustrated by Ennis' reluctance to make the move - to grab life by the balls - by moving in with him, and tells Ennis that he can't go on just seeing each other every 4 years. Ennis, who says he has to stand by the responsibilities of adult life, the choices he's made, simply can't. I wish I could quote that "every 4 years" speech line by line because some things in it struck close to home from past experience. For others it might be something else.

In any case, when I posted "Back to Brokeback" a few days ago I said I was awaiting for CP to review the film. Well, what stuck with him was... the wrestling. More about it here (thanks, CP, as well, for the plug - and for your amazing blog page).

UPDATE: J. Bernard Jones has written a comprehensive review of the film on his The Edge of Night blog, for those who might be interested in reading a little more about the film.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NY Daily News: Papi & Papá... Mami & Mamá

Back in August, I blogged about the sensation caused by the Farach-Colton family when they participated in a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and presented their twin kids. Argentina media had been engaged in an extended dialogue on the merits of parenting by same-sex couples and 5-year old Lucas and Julia nearly stole everyone's hearts by blowing kisses at the cameras and telling everyone "I love you!"

The Farach-Coltons, who currently live in New York, were featured yesterday in the New York Daily News Latino-themed supplement "Viva New York" along with my great friends Carolina Cordero and Claudia Glaser ands their twins Diego and Carmen; and Luz Rivera and Flora Esther Chalmers and their two boys, Kevin and Kendrick (all pictured above).

The Daily News has chosen a funky format for the online edition of "Viva New York, but you can read the full article, "Mami y Mamá... Papi y Papá" here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Updates: Jamaica murder, Emanuel Xavier, Lesbian Council Speaker and Taking a T

Been a bit busy to blog more consistently. But I thought I'd give you some updates:

The Nov. 30th murder of Lenford "Steve" Harvey in Jamaica: I haven't seen any new stuff in media but in the Jamaica Land We LGBT blog, there has been an ongoing discussion on the murder and the international attention it has gotten from a Jamaica-based vantage-point.

On the attack on spoken word artist and actor Emanuel Xavier: I am glad to report that Emanuel is doing much better. He's been amazingly grateful for the support that he received and, closer to home, he has decided to put together "Mariposas," a night of spoken word poetry and performance as a benefit for "SOMOS..." (the anti-homophobia program at the Latino Commission on AIDS that I used to coordinate and is now run by the great Francisco Lazala and Bolivar X. Nieto). The event will take place at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery @ Bleeker, right across from CBGB's, F Train to 2nd Avenue or 6 Train to Bleeker, on Saturday, January 28th, 2006 from 6 to 8pm - suggested donation $5). Elizabeth Latex will MC and performers include Emanuel, Dino Foxx, Simply Rob, Robert Ortiz and Marty Cohen.

On Christine Quinn having a chance to become the first ever openly-gay New York City Council Speaker: Over the weekend, the New York Times actually endorsed her over Bill De Blasio, which makes that reality a little bit closer.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Back to Brokeback

So last night I went back to see Brokeback Mountain for a second time, wondering if I'd find it as moving and entrancing as the first time I saw it a week ago. Result? Yup, I was just as moved and I definitely think it is one of the best movies I have seen in ages.


Though I haven't necessarily been a fan of Westerns or John Wayne mythology in particular, I have long admired the spare, bleak, beautiful short stories by Raymond Carver and the deeply involving rural pastorals by novelist Richard Ford. So, even if I haven't read the work of Annie Proulx (except for the "Brokeback Mountain" short story as printed in the New Yorker magazine), I guess I was bound to love this amazingly spare, tragic, beautifully filmed movie.

From the opening shot of a truck driving through majestic mountains in the dark to the first words spoken in the film, the silence is what sticks with you, the leisurely pace in which the film stakes its ground. What follows is a tortured love story that rings true in almost every scene, with unsung glory for Rodrigo Prieto, the film's cinematographer.

Criticisim has come from every angle: From right wing nuts who call this tortured romance an ad for homosexuality, to gays who wish the film was a little bit gayer (as in "Will and Grace" or "In and Out"? Ugh!). From those who take Heath Ledger to task for falling in love with on-screen wife Michelle Williams (supposedly in order to prove his non-gayness!). Or those who want people to stop calling it a 'gay movie' because they want to see it as a parable for everyone (not sure everyone will stay through the first fuck, no condoms, just saliva, after all the story does begin in 1963). Some might even have some issues with the characterization of Latinos in the film (there are several Mexican ranch-hands who speak Spanish to each other but remain largely non-descript as well as scene that takes place in a weirdly conceptualized Puebla, Mexico right out of Fassbinder's "Querelle") but I'm not sure there's anything there. Then there are those who fret that the film won't break through the $100 million mark once it goes into wide release today. I say: Who cares!! If you wanna see an amazing movie go see Brokeback (and if you're weary about homo sex, you just can go to "The Straight Dude's Guide to Brokeback" and then enjoy!).

So, in a few words: GO SEE IT.

In the meantime, the one last thing I await is for CP to review it. More than anyone I know, he'll be someone who can review the film with some life experience behind him. In the meantime, I'll keep on saying this is just one amazing film.

Comments regarding murder of Lenford "Steve" Harvey

Some people have been leaving comments to the posts I have made regarding the murder of Lenford "Steve" Harvey. As some of you might not be going back to check the comments to previous posts, I wanted to highlight these three (and thank the writers for posting them):

W.S. James said...

I am very much angry over this. Not only have met and dialogued with Steve on an HIV/AIDS conference earlier this year but saw the impact he was doing. This is a loss to many in Jamaica and Humanity as a whole. It is long overdue for these sodomy laws to change across the Caribbean and more stands be taken on Stigma...yes I am upset and sad

Melissa said:

Dear Andrés,

I am a returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Jamaica. I worked with Jamaica AIDS Support and very closely with Steve Harvey.

Steve's death is an overwhelming loss for Jamaica and also a personal loss for me. I loved Steve dearly as so many others did inside and outside of JAS. His work and his talent for reaching out to others and making them listen to the plight of stigmatized persons marveled all of us. My only relief now is to know that his death and work is not going unnoticed.

Thank you for the attention that you are bringing to his story. I know that many people, especially within Jamaica, want to dismiss the possibility that his murder was a hate crime. After working for over a year with the GLBT community in Jamaica, I am quite certain that sexual orientation was at the heart of this crime.

Past commentators on your site have been correct. Steve was not openly gay outside of the Jamaica AIDS Support community; HOWEVER, the work that he did and that JASL continues to do is very controversial and it implicates everyone as supporters of the human rights struggle for gays. This association makes them a target in some respects regardless of whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. I would also say that in Jamaica if you are a man and you do HIV/AIDS work or assist the gay community then it is assumed that you must be "batty".

Steve knew the danger of his work. He approached it without fear and with a clear vision of what Jamaica could be without the stigma and hatred that presently exists for both homosexuals and Persons Living with HIV/AIDS. He adopted this cause as his life's mission. In the end, I believe Steve died for this cause. I know him to have been an extremely honest person and unlikely to deny his identity as a homosexual even at the cost of his own life. He believed very strongly in his right and the right of others to live freely as they are.

rosey g said...

I lived in Negril the summer that Mr. Williamson was brutally slain. The homophobic and anti-woman culture that persists in a society that touts its "friendliness" is paradoxical to say the least. If the average tourist only knew or cared to know the bitter realities.

I had been assisting some women in terms of leaving abusive hetero relationships and had been receiving numerous death threats or taunts of "lesbian, we are gonna git you and fock you up good." I went to the police locally who did not believe that I should feel threatened so I took my complaint to the female superintendant at Savannah la Mar who did take action...that action being to light a fire under the Negril constabulary's butts forcing them to go after the individual threatening

The year before, just up the road from where I was staying, two expat men were slain simply because they had been sharing a home together with no women present. Machetes were the weapons of choice.

In many hotels outside of the larger compounds two men cannot share a room because of the homosexual assumptions. Just last year Sandals finally issued a statement saying that they would no longer discriminate on the basis of orientation. I wonder if that holds true.

If I rebuked a gigolo on the beach for his sexual advances I was called a "focking dyke". I sought out isolated beaches outside of Negril as I found the gigolo straight culture to be just too much for this woman.

How many times I heard Jamaican males say that they preferred "skin to skin" instead of using condoms! Yes, there was a nationwide television campaign extolling the virtues of condom use but has it made an impact?

One good thing that came out of the Williamson slaying that summer was seeing more articles in the mainstream Jamaican press that dealt positively with the LGBT community. I know this pissed off many homophobes but too damned bad sayeth I.

Sometimes I just want to scream about Jamaica in a very general way but that would be condemning those whose work is starting to make an impact. Education is the key and until that field of access is level countrywide myths will continue to prevail.

There are many things I could add based on my many years of living not only in the hot zones but in a major redneck Canadian city that would be germaine to this situation in particular. Suffice to say I will continue to do what I do no matter what.

That is all I can do and damn those who believe that my published writings should never be negative. Sorry Jamaica but the truth can hurt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New York Times Editorial on Murder of Steve Harvey

The New York Times has published an editorial today on the murder of Lenford "Steve" Harvey. Read the full text by going here. Some excerpts follow:
Jamaica has a well-earned reputation for homophobia and murderous violence against gay people, most recently the murder of an internationally known AIDS outreach worker, Steve Harvey, after he was abducted from his home at gunpoint. The killing of Mr. Harvey has drawn condemnation from international organizations like Unaids and Human Rights Watch, and it should prod the Jamaican government to pay attention to the gay rights issue. [...]

International human rights advocates have urged the Jamaican police, who have a spotty record in cases of anti-gay violence, to bring Mr. Harvey's killers to justice. But the country must go beyond this case to take a firm stance against all kinds of homophobic violence.

A good first step would be to repeal the archaic laws that implicitly sanction anti-gay violence - and drive the AIDS epidemic - by making sexual activities between consenting adults of the same sex illegal.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Remembering Steve Harvey in Jamaica, the wrong editorial - and what you can do

A Memorial

Jamaica AIDS Support held a memorial in honor of Lenford "Steve" Harvey, who used to be their Coordinator of Targeted Interventions (more photos here courtesy of Nigel Mathlin, Creative Director of the Granada-based AquaDesign). As Blabbeando has reported over the last couple of weeks, Mr. Harvey was murdered on November 30th, on the eve of World AIDS Day, apparently for being gay.

The Wrong Editorial

On Saturday, The Jamaican Observer continued to play semantics with whether homophobia is truly widespread in Jamaica and whether Jamaican authorities should be taken to task for not investigating attacks against gays. In a lead editorial titled "The Misperceptions of Gay vs. Heterosexual Murders" the paper says, among other things, the following:
...there is a myth, which is gathering steam, most dangerously abroad and perpetrated by skilled propagandists, that somehow the murder of gays, particularly homosexual males, are less likely to be solved than if a straight person is the victim [...] Another myth being parlayed with great political skill, is that every murder of any crime against any homosexual is, first and foremost, a hate crime, perpetrated because of the sexual preference of the victim [...] This newspaper does not dismiss the fact that openly gay men, in some circumstances, may face harassment and ridicule and even assault, which can lead to murder [...] We, however, do not believe that improving tolerance or ending stigma are achieved through propagandist exaggeration and/or a misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise, of the social construct of Jamaica so as to place all utterances on a literal plane.
The paper argues that the killing of gays in the island is part of a larger crisis in public safety - they say 1,500 people have been killed so far this year - and argue that the failure to resolve these murders are a reflection of the incompetence rather than outright homophobia.

Most shamefully, the editors end by backing the recently announced police plan to appoint an independent civilian monitor to oversee their investigation of the murder of Mr. Harvey but also imply that they see this as special attention being given to the gay community and demand that the same happen with all other crimes:
Perhaps the system can now be applied to murders in inner-city communities where the bulk of the 1,500 homicides victims reside, whose friends insist that the police will not bring them justice.
The Jamaican Observer is right in pointing out that there are other factors that come into play when it comes to violence in Jamaica and that the police's failure to resolve and prosecute more than 50 percent of these crimes is appaling. And some, and not only The Observer, have raised the issue of why it is that an international community can mobilize quickly around this specific murder but seem to disregard other killings as well as the many who continue dying of AIDS in the island.

I personally believe that the issue of violence in Jamaica is larger than all this and should be confronted but I also believe that the reason why the murder of Steve Harvey seems to have drawn so much attention so quickly is that it has all the markings of a death foretold. Mr. Harvey might not have lived an openly gay life but the reason why he was taken from his house and shot was the fact that he was the only one who did not answer "No" when asked if he was gay. That various international and local human rights agencies had alerted the Jamaican authorities that this would happen and yet they chose to ignore, dismiss or ridicule their findings puts the blood of gays and lesbians in Jamaica in their hands. It might be mostly international agencies raising the alarm but the blood spilled is 100% Jamaican.

As a matter of fact, by playing semantics, continuing to say that questions raised about homophobia and hate crimes in Jamaica amount to "myths.. most dangeroulsy abroad... perpetrated by skilled propagandists... with great political skill," The Jamaica Observer opts to stay the course and blame others for calling attention to the murder of Jamaicans instead of truly taking leadership that is needed to stop these murders.

What Can Be Done (recently forwarded to my mailbox):

Action: Solidarity for Steve Harvey
Mary Ann Torres, ICASO
Dear friends and colleagues:

The night of the 30th of November, 2005, Steve Harvey, a leading Jamaican HIV/AIDS activist who had been working for 14 years to defend the health and human rights of people living with and at high-risk of HIV/AIDS, was murdered. He was found dead early in the morning with gunshot wounds in his back and head in a rural area, miles from his home.

Steve worked with Jamaica AIDS Support since 1997, and represented the interests of marginalized people and people living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and throughout the region. As coordinator of targeted interventions for Jamaica AIDS Support, he had been responsible for ensuring that the most marginalized of Jamaicans—gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals; sex workers; prisoners—were provided access to HIV/AIDS information and services. By mid 2005, he was chosen as LACCASO's (Latin America and Caribbean Council of AIDS Service organizations), in-country project coordinator for Jamaica. His capacity, dedication and courage signaled the way for the most successful implementation of our Advocacy Project.

"Steve Harvey was a person of extraordinary bravery and integrity, who worked tirelessly to ensure that some of Jamaica's most marginalized people had the tools and information to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS," said Rebecca Schleifer, researcher with the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and author of a recent report on anti-gay violence and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.

Considering the enormous loss Steve's death means for all of us, we request your solidarity, to condemn this brutal crime and request to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Please sign on the following letter, which will be sent to the Jamaican Prime Minister in the days to come. Please distribute this message and collect signatures. Send your support to

Mary Ann Torres
Senior Program Officer
International Council of AIDS Service Organizations – ICASO
Central Secretariat
65 Wellesley Street E., Suite 403
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4Y 1G7
Tel: (1-416) 921-0018 Ext. 16
Fax: (1-416) 921-9979

The Most Honorable P.J. Patterson
Prime Minister of Jamaica
1 Devon Road
Kingston 6, Jamaica, West Indies

Honorable Prime Minister Patterson:

We the undersigned, organizations and individuals from around the world, condemn the brutal murder of Steve Lenford Harvey, which occurred in Kingston, Jamaica the night of 29th to 30th of November, 2005.

Steve Harvey was a leader and activist who defended the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and those most vulnerable to infection. He began working for Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS) in 1997; and by the time of his murder he was dedicated to bringing a Jamaican perspective to the implementation of an important international human rights project on HIV prevention and access to HIV treatment.

Steve's vicious assassination has brought pain, anger and desperation to people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to HIV/AIDS activists and advocates around the world. It ended a life full of commitment, energy and dedication, seeking to improve the quality of life of those most vulnerable to human rights violations. It is difficult for us to understand how this violence without limits and control can take the lives of those who work for a peaceful world and for the development and well-being of our people.

Honorable Prime Minister of Jamaica: We, the undersigned, call on you to:

1. Publicly call for aggressive investigations into this crime, and to punish Steve's murders to the full extent of Jamaican law;

2. Ensure that justice is carried out and impunity avoided, so that other vulnerable Jamaicans are not victims of such criminal attacks;

3. Ensure that the Jamaican Government formulate and enact policies to protect Jamaican citizens from violence, homophobia and all forms of discrimination;

4. That all investigations and findings of criminal responsibility will be undertaken in accordance with human rights conventions and treaties signed by your Government.

On behalf of human rights defenders and HIV/AIDS activists and advocates from around the world, we await your response.

[Mods note: Please contact LACCASO at or Mary Ann Torres from ICASO at for a letter in Spanish or French version.]

Previous Posts:

LGBT Youth in Foster Care: Amazing Article and Slide-Show

Yesterday the Journal News from Westchester, N.Y., published an in-depth article about the Green Chimneys agency in New York and the queer foster kids that it serves. It is an amazing article and I hope you take some time to click on the hyperlink above to read it.

Most impressive, though, is a 4 minute slide-show and interview with some of the people interviewd for the piece which you can watch here. Kudos to reporter Marcela Rojas and the editors of the Journal News for this amazing piece.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Colombia: An ex-President's son talks about being gay and Colombia Diversa

Today, one of the most important Colombian news- papers, El Tiempo (the only Latin American newspaper that has editorialized in support of marriage for same-sex couples), features an in-depth interview with Virgilio Barco Isakson, son of former Colombian president Virgilio Barco, on his decision to come out publicly and his involvement with Colombia Diversa, a new national Colombian LGBT rights advocacy organization.

The interviewer, Yamid Amat, a renowned Colombian journalist, calls Isakson as a 'hero' and I agree, even though I have met Virgilio personally and have not told him so directly.

In any case, here is my translation of excerpts from the Isakson interview in today's El Tiempo:

Yamid Amat: For you, has it been difficult to make de decision to recognize that you are gay?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: For me and for any gay person. From a very early age society told me: "Virgilio Barco, son of Virgilio Barco Vargas, you have to get married and raise a family." It's a pattern of behavior and to break away from it is very difficult for anyone, and even more if it is publicly. I was lucky that my family, when I told them I was gay, accepted it and supported me.

Yamid Amat: How did you get the courage to talk about it?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: I am a very reserved and shy person. It's not in me to expose myself to public opinion, but I felt it was important not only for LGBT persons in Colombia, but for the whole country in general, for the modern and liberal conception of society, to have someone who spoke freely of the topic and busted up imaginary [societal] constructs...

Yamid Amat: Why was Colombia Diversa created?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: Colombian society will not change from one day to the other; [Change] requires a serious, technical, judicious and long term process and this cannot be done by one person alone.

Yamid Amat: In search of what?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: Basically, three objectives: One, to fight for the recognition of some basic rights for the gay community. Two, to begin - and I say 'begin' because it is something that will take many years - to transform the imaginary construct that society has of gay and lesbian persons in order to defeat the prejudices that exist. And, finally, the third objective is to make this community politically visible.

We think it is very important that the political class, the people who make decisions, understand that there is a large gay community who is unjustly mistreated.

Yamid Amat: What are the basic rights to which you aspire?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: Not to be discriminated: These people have been condemned to rejection by society, to the lack of recognition of their rights and to the violation [of these same rights], without access to defend themselves. The Constitutional Court has said that this is illegal but, to make this ruling worth anything, you have to [go through the court system]. We think it is important that there be a law that in an affirmative way would establish no discrimination against persons due to their sexual orientation.

In Colombia, just because a person is gay, they will not be hired or will be fired from work, they will not rent an apartment, discrimination reaches [levels of] intimidation and physical violence.

Yamid Amat: Isn't there a law that can protect you?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: No. There are rulings by the Constitutional Court in our favor, but there is no specific law that protects us. Our goal is that all gays and lesbians can enjoy the same rights that the rest of Colombians enjoy; this will make of Colombia a more pluralist society, more open, more just.

The Constitution enshrines principles such as the right to equality and the freedom to develop as a person. We need a law that institutionalizes this.

Yamid Amat: Why are you asking for increased visibility for gay people?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: Gays and lesbians are poorly organized as a group and, due to this lack of visibility; they are not taken into account in the decisions made by Congress, the Executive Office and the local governments. Yet [the community] holds a few votes.

Yamid Amat: What other basic rights are you demanding?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: There are two rights in particular that we think are very important: The possibility to build a joint patrimony - If two people live together for a few years and buy, for example, an apartment, when one dies his family [should not be able to] take away everything that they built together [from his partner]. Another right is the possibility to affiliate one's partner to social security.

Yamid Amat: Why do gay people hide their condition?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: For the fear of being rejected, to lose their jobs, to be denied credit, to be assaulted in the streets. Our project seeks to build a society where gay and lesbian people do not have to hide.

Yamid Amat: How many are there in the country?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: There are no statistics or surveys, but it is estimated that 6 to 8 percent of the population worldwide is gay. If Colombia has 44 million, we would be approximately 3 million people.

Yamid Amat: Do you see [the legalization of] gay marriage being difficult in Colombia?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: Marriage is one way to live as a couple. There are other options. We are conscious that the topic of gay marriage causes controversy and that it would confront many difficulties at the moment, but the right to [joint] patrimony and the right to social security are issues that affect us on a day to day basis and are very valuable for couples.

Yamid Amat: How long have you been with your partner?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: Eight years.

Yamid Amat: Is there discrimination in education?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: A simple inquiry about [sexual orientation] as a requirement to access or remain in an educational establishment is a violation of every right.

The United Nations has said "education must be accessible to everyone, especially the most vulnerable groups, without discrimination for any of the discriminated groups."

Human Rights Watch points out that the rights of children are violated when they are mistreated at school due to their sexual orientation.

Yamid Amat: What can you do to help those who, after [reading] this interview, want to join you?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: A concrete way of joining Colombia Diversa. We need understanding and support. There is information available in our webpage or you can send an e-mail message to

Our project is not only for gays and lesbians; we work for an increasingly just, an increasingly Democratic, and an increasingly open and pluralist Colombia, free of discrimination, of all type of discrimination and injustice.

Yamid Amat: How is Colombia Diversa supported financially?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: We exist thanks to the generosity of many people, from donations, we organize fundraising events. Ten extremely important artists just donated some of their artwork to build a portfolio of incredibly beautiful engravings as a way to raise funds. We have also received donations from some human rights organizations, but the most important thing is the time and talent that many people are offering on a volunteer base to the organization.

Yamid Amat: Is there a cost to become a member?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: No. There are many ways of contributing [to Colombia Diversa]. You can offer time, knowledge and support; but, obviously, we need to survive and for this reason any contribution is welcome.

We are extremely careful about [being open] about our fiscal accounting; we publish financial reports, expenditures and investments. We have to be very transparent. We are a small organization, we have only existed for a short time and we do need resources.

Additionally, donations ate an expression of solidarity. Each person can contribute to build an integral Colombia, teaching his or her children not to discriminate.

Yamid Amat: What should a father or a mother do when they find out their son or daughter is gay?

Virgilo Barco Isakson: The most important thing is to acknowledge, understand and accept [their child], rejection only leads to more sadness, more difficulties, more frustrations. People are born gay; it is something they cannot change and, as a result, for a head of household to try to force his child to be like him causes a lot of suffering.

This interview is the vest opportunity to show that we are just as normal as everyone else, that we have dreams as the rest of all Colombians, that we fall in love as does everyone, but that we suffer more than the rest.

Yamid Amat: Many people might want to contribute economically.

Virgilo Barco Isakson: We keep the confidentiality of our contributors.

Friday, December 09, 2005

International Outrage at Murder of AIDS Activist in Jamaica Is Having Some Effect

Today's Jamaica Observer is reporting that, "in an apparent first for Jamaica, the police are to appoint an independent monitor of their investigation of the murder of AIDS and gay rights activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey, and could do the same in future investigations of gay men believed to have been killed because of their sexual preferences. This according to Mark Shields, Deputy Police Commissioner (pictured), who aknowledges that the move comes as a response "to claims by Jamaican and international gay rights activists that the police have not been aggressive enough, not only in this investigation, but those involving crimes against gay men generally."

Mr. Shield says: "I have received several calls from human rights groups internationally and I have expressed to them that I would keep them up-to-date and informed as to where the investigations are heading."

The article also gives additional details about the murder: "Harvey, who worked with the NGO, Jamaica AIDS Support, was killed a month ago in Kingston. Five men apparently intercepted him as he returned home from work one evening. The attackers are reported to have taken Harvey into the home where other persons who were there were tied up. Harvey, having been allegedly warned that he would be harmed because of his sexual preference, was driven away. His body was found the next day."

But it also says that some "Jamaican authorities" still argue that the high number of homophobic attacks are not necessarily due to an increased level of homophobia in Jamaica but rather to the fact that Jamaica has a generally higher crime rate accross the board.

Previous Posts:

New York Court Says No to Same-Sex Marriage but Does Not Have Last Word

For those of us following the City of New York's appeal to a February ruling that found it unconstitutional to deny same-sex partners in New York City the right to marriage, yesterday's announcement reversing that opinion was no big surprise. At the court hearing, for the most part, the Justices were clear in their disdain for the arguments brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of the plaintiffs seeking the right to marry. The majority of the 4-1 ruling certainly expressed that disdain in their opinions released yesterday. For a full evaluation of what the set-back means, you would be well-served by reading this Gay City News article by Art Leonard which tacitly puts the blame on one person: Mayor Mike Bloomberg whose decision it was to appeal the February ruling.

For his part, Mayor Bloomberg released the following statement "As I have said, this issue should be decided by the State's highest court and I assume today's decision will be appealed. If today's decision is affirmed by the Court of Appeals, I will urge the Legislature to change the State's Domestic Relations Law to permit gay marriage."

Lambda Legal has said that they will appeal yesterday's ruling.

In the meantime, Curtis Woolbright and his partner Daniel S. Reyes,
plaintiffs in this case and pictured above at a Marriage Equality march accross the Brooklyn Bridge in 2004, sent the following message out this morning:

Dear Friends,

We wanted to let you know that the NYS Appellate Court reached a decision in our marriage case. Unfortunately it was not in our favor. In a vote of 4 to 1 the court reversed the decision of Supreme Court Justice Ling-Cohen. In essence the majority decision states that the fundamental right to marry doesn't extend to same-sex couples, only to "traditional" man-woman marriage; marriage is about procreation and childrearing, which justifies excluding same-sex couples; and it's up to the legislature, not the courts, to create social policy on marriage, and Judge Ling-Cohan was wrong not only on the merits but also in her remedy -- having found the marriage ban unconstitutional, the most she could do is send the question to the legislature.

As we shared with you previously, when we were in the courtroom, the justices were openly hostile to our attorney, so it is not entirely surprising that they ruled against us. Lambda has told us that they plan on appealing the case to the state's highest court, the NYS Court of Appeals. There are other cases in the state that are also working their way to the high court. Whether there will be a consolidation of cases is unclear to us right now.

Curtis and I are very disappointed with the decision. Frankly there is almost a numbness that comes with the news. Perhaps it is because there are so many feelings and thoughts swirling about. Interestingly, back in February when we got the first decision our reaction was the almost the same: numb and not sure what to feel. It really is still sinking in for us. One thing is for certain we will persevere and hopefully the final decision will be in our favor and if not...well.....we've got one question, "How cold does it get in Toronto?" We will continue to keep you posted.

Warmest Wishes this Holiday Season,

Daniel & Curtis

Let's hope that next year the holidays will be warmer for Daniel and Curtis, the other plaintiffs, and many of the other same-sex couples who wish to marry throughout New York State.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

Thanks to my good friend Noel, I was able to see an advance showing of the movie to the moment, Brokeback Mountain, which opens tomorrow. I happened to see it at possibly the gayest movie theatre in New York, the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas theatre on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, which explains the guffaws and shrieks I heard when some hetero sex scenes were shown (I still don't get it why some gay men get grossed out by hetero sex but I guess it wasn't something that surprised me). What actually surprised me was that some people in the audience also made kissy-kissy noises and laughed nervously as the first man to man kiss was shown. That I guess will be the reaction in most theatres across the country but in a theatre mostly filled with gay men? Amazing.

Gilberto, a friend visiting from Venezuela was just as stunned by the film as I was (I loved it) but a couple of friends I bumped into didn't think it was that great. I won't say much else because I hope you go see it and pass your own judgement. I will say that Heath Ledger is stunning in the role of Enis and so is Michelle Williams as his wife.

NOTE: To read the original Annie Proulx story on which the fim is based go to The New Yorker Magazine's archives here; to read Stephen Holden's review in the New York Times (he calls it "moving and majestic") go here; and for Ioannis Mookas less than enchanted review in Gay City News, go here.

Agencies Condemn Senseless Murder of Jamaican AIDS Activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey

Yesterday, UNAIDS became the largest international agency to condemn the senseless killing of Lenford "Steve" Harvey in Jamaica on November 30th, 2005.

They were also joined today by the Latin American and the Caribbean Council of AIDS Services Organizations, with a regional secretariat office based in Venezuela (they will be gathering signatures
from Latin American organizations and activists for a letter of repudiation being sent to P.J. Patterson, Jamaica's Prime Minister), and the National Black Justice Coalition which released this statement.

UNAIDS press release reads as follows:

Press statement

UNAIDS Condemns Killing of AIDS Activist in Jamaica

Geneva, 7 December 2005 -- UNAIDS condemns the recent killing of Lenford “Steve” Harvey, a Jamaican AIDS activist who, since 1997, worked tirelessly with the Jamaica AIDS Support to contribute to the response to the AIDS epidemic.

Steve Harvey’s death is a profound shock and loss not only to the AIDS movement in Jamaica and the Caribbean, but to the whole world. UNAIDS expresses its sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Steve Harvey will be remembered as an extraordinarily brave and committed activist, who, irrespective of the dangers of his work, represented the interests of people living with HIV and those at risk of infection. His courage was inspiring and his capacity to reach out to those in need outstanding, providing them one on one counseling, and access to HIV and AIDS information and services.

UNAIDS is confident that the Government of Jamaica will investigate Steve’s death to ensure that those who committed this hideous crime are brought to justice.

UNAIDS reiterates its support for the strengthening of efforts by the Jamaican government to address homophobia and other causes of stigma and discrimination, which are fuelling the spread of AIDS not only in Jamaica but across the Caribbean.

Legal and policy reform have an important role to play in ensuring that human rights of all are respected, and also in helping to change broader social values and in setting standards. It is freedom from fear and discrimination that will finally empower individuals and communities to act, to mobilize their resources, and to respond collectively and positively to the AIDS epidemic.

For more information, please contact: Annemarie Hou, UNAIDS Geneva, tel. +41 22 791 4577, Dominique De Santis, UNAIDS Geneva, tel. +41 22 791 4509 or Miriam Maluwa, UNAIDS Jamaica tel. +1 876 960 6536-38. For more information on UNAIDS, please visit

Previously Posted:

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Epitafios on HBO Signature and HBO on Demand

A while back, HBO launched HBO Latino for cable and satellite subscribers with the ability to get multiple HBO channels on their television systems. They have done a pretty good job in highlighting some great films coming from Latin America and Spain but Epitafios, filmed in Buenos Aires in 2003 for HBO Latin America (and shown in South America last year), became their first foray into developing multi-series programming specifically in Spanish.

The stand alone 13-episode run already premiered States-wide on the HBO Latino in Spanish. Now, for the fisrt time, it runs with English subtitles on HBO Signature (starting tonight) and HBO on demand. It is getting some good reviews including this one in todays' Washington Post.

Unconventional in its bleakness and sometimes gruesome cruelty, the show is a mix of the film "Seven" and the US TV show "CSI: Miami." A serial killer goes on a killing rampage through the city of Buenos Aires (beautifully captured by the cinematographers) to avenge the police bungling of a kidnapping case in which four high-school students ended up burned to death years earlier. The series takes its time to reveal the true reasons for the vengeful murders but manages to keep suspense even after the killer's face is revealed. Ultimately, for a first try at a Spanish language series, HBO has done OK. Unfortunately...


... if you tune in to see Almodovar star Celia Roth, you will be in for a surprise since she doe not appear until the later episodes. She plays a tough-as-nails policewoman who seems to have the strength and smarts to capture the killer and, in fact, she is the first one to identify him. Unfortunately, a side-story about her willing participation in a series of deadly games of Russian-roulette and a failure in logic as the killer hands her a gun and she choses to shoot someone else fully knowing that she might be the next victim, fails to convince. Then again, most of the policemen in the film are so inept it's no wonder more than 50 people die by the series' end.

Continuity problems abound, specially during the later episodes, as night becomes day becomes night in what seems to be mere minutes. Most laughable is a scene in which a police officer calls a man to warn him that he will be the next victim. The man has already been abducted but his cell-phone has been left behind on a park bench. When a jogger picks up the phone and answers the policeman's call with a "Hello?" the policeman cuts off the call in anger without saying a thing and tells his partners "Damn! The killer already has him! A park jogger picked up the phone!" (hm, not having spoken to the jogger at all, how exactly would he know this?).

Most dissapointingly, at least for me, was the identity of the serial killer. The moment I saw him walk into his first scene, I had a feeling that it would be her. Renzo, the policeman who telepathically guessed that the cell-phone had been left in a park, is seen at the begining of the series driving a cab for a living (he retires from the police after bungling the kidnapping rescue mentioned earlier). One of his regular passengers is a transgender woman who supplies him with black-market anti-depressants. As the story develops, it turns out that the transgender woman is actually a gay man whose former lover was one of the students who was burned to death. He wants to avenge his lover's death and make everyone who was involved in the botched kidnapping rescue suffer as much as he did. Antonio Birabent plays the character with some abandon but never truly convinces. Ultimately I was extremely dissapointed that once again, the freak serial killer turned out to be a gay man who might also seem gender-confused.

The trouble with the Vatican's edict on gay priests...

From a December 9th article in the National Catholic Reporter posted online now (full article here):
Sexual offender researchers Nicholas Groth and Frank Oliveri studied more than 3,000 sex offenders and did not find even one homosexual man who shifted from an attraction to adult men to a desire for minors. Conversely, they found that men who were nonexclusively fixated on children, or who regressed from an attraction to adults to an interest in children, all described themselves as heterosexual and, in addition, usually were homophobic. Similarly, Minneapolis psychologist Peter Dimock concluded that most minor boys are abused by heterosexual men, some of whom are indifferent to the gender of their victims, choosing either girls or boys based on the minor’s availability and vulnerability. Perhaps more sexual predators abuse boys than once was thought but are reluctant to say so and be perceived as homosexuals.
And, from an opinion piece published in the Boston Globe on December 4th (full piece here):
Where is the long-awaited Vatican policy that would protect women and girls from priests who cannot control their ''heterosexual tendencies?"

Where is the plan to evaluate every heterosexual seminarian to ''assure that the candidate does not have sexual disorders that are incompatible with priesthood?"

Where is the National Conference of Bishops' Un-Holy Activities Committee to ensure that no man is ordained a Roman Catholic priest who has not ''clearly overcome" anything more than a ''transitory" sexual interest in the opposite sex?

Where, in short, are the witch hunters for the girls' team?

Monday, December 05, 2005

49%: 1 percent short of happiness and half of really much of nothing

A song:

A while back, I got Röyksopp's sophore album, The Understanding, and was surprised by how different it sounded from their first album, Melody A.M. It seemed more upbeat than its predecessor and perhaps a bit more commercial (not a bad album at all but it certainly threw some reviewers for a loop since some panned it, expecting a safer follow-up to their stunning debut).

Me? I listened to it a couple of times but nothing caught my breath in the way that "Poor Leno" or "Eple" did from the 1st album.

But sometimes a song makes you re-evaluate a whole album and this is the case with The Understanding.

Their third single, the great "What Else Is There," recently came out (it has an amazing video which you can download here) and it's the second time that I have been forced to re-evaluate the album.

The stunner, though, is
"49%" (the video is not that great but it was partly shot in beautiful Barcelona where I was back in January). The "49 Percent 1 Percent Short Of Happiness And Half Of Really Much Of Nothing" chorus has been stuck in my head for a month now and, if you give it a chance, I'm sure it'll become one of your favorite songs of the year. For some reason it's become sort of an anthem to my life as the year comes to an end.

Look for an exclusive set of remixes in the I-Tunes shop (from Angello & Ingrosso, Ewan Pearson, West London Deep and M.A.N.D.Y.) but go straight for the glorious original - only available on The Understanding CD.

Update on Murder of Jamaican AIDS Activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey

[NOTE: To do something about this, please go to end of message - Andrés Duque]

I have not been able to stop thinking about the senseless murder of Jamaican AIDS activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey all weekend long since wrote about it on Friday. So let me share this message I just received from Thomas Glave, founding member of Jamaican Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG); current Assistant Professor of the Department of English, General Literature and Rhetoric at my own alma-mater Binghamton University, and author (most recently of "Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent"). I think he makes some important points particularly about the reporting in spaces such as the US-based (though he does not mention any of them by name). To wit:
Some listservs, articles, and individuals have claimed that Lanford "Steve" Harvey, whom I knew, was "openly" gay. This is not quite true, and is a misrepresentation of Jamaican LGBT people's complex realities. Who is, or can be, truly "openly" gay today in Jamaica? In my definition, "openly gay" means self-defined as such, having "come out" formally to family and friends and perhaps colleagues, and not feeling concern about who does or doesn't know one's sexual orientation. To me, being "openly gay" suggests that one feels the sort of security and support that would permit one to live as an "open" or "out" person. This sort of reality is simply not possible for just about everyone in Jamaica at this time, and should not be put forth, in articles or otherwise, as fact. Brian Williamson, another Jamaican gay man whom I knew from my J-FLAG days and who was also a friend, *was* openly gay -- but Brian was murdered in 2004. Brian was also intensely aware of the risks he took as an openly gay man living in Jamaica. I know of only one other person who lived as an openly gay man in Jamaica, and who was also a J-FLAG founding member -- someone who has, incidentally, received political asylum, in another country, as a gay man.

Steve Harvey was known to many of his friends and colleagues as a gay man,
and in that sense might have been "openly" gay; but again, I would like to stress that Jamaican LGBT realities are not at all the same as North American or European LGBT realities. Being "openly" gay in Jamaica can mean death -- and few lgbt Jamaicans, at least among those whom I know, are willing to risk death in a society whose violence they understand only too well.
Our hearts go to Steve's friends and family and we hope that media takes notice of the disservice that they are doing by misrepresenting the facts of the case.

UPDATE: At times like these, the only LGBT organization in Jamaica - J-FLAG - needs our uttermost support. This is why I urge anyone who reads this post to take a coulple of minutes and write a check for $5, $10, $50 or $500 dollars:

Jamaican and Canadian dollar cheques or money orders can be made out to:
FCIB Acct. #1000351328
Mail to:
P.O. Box 1152
Kingston 8

US currency cheques or money orders can be written to: VMBS Acct. #96269071
Mail to:
P.O. Box 7247-8801
Philadelphia PA 19170-8801
Previously Posted:

Juancito has two mommies

A couple of years ago, seeking to cash in on the NYC Latino market, the New York's Daily News launched a monthly supplement called Viva New York (which they recently fashionably tagged as simply VNY). The focus, as in other "Latino" publications launched by English-language media, seems to be on attracting advertising. Nevertheless, once in a while, informative articles do make it into the supplement.

A while back, I posted an entry on how Argentina media had fallen in love with the Farach-Colton family, a gay couple from New York and their adopted twins who were visting Buenos Aires, so when reporter Christian Del Moral called seeking interviews for an article on gay parents raising kids, I immediately thought of the Farach-Coltons.

I'm not sure when the next VNY is coming out but it appears that the lead issue will be on gay parenting in Latino communities (as the preview image above indicates). I will keep you posted once it comes out.

Friday, December 02, 2005

New Orleans Now: Still Devastated

My friend Rex Wockner has been in New Orleans for a couple of days. He has been sending some photos of the devastation as it looks now and that word is a pretty good description of how things still look - Devastated. Just take a look here.

Jamaican AIDS Activist Murdered on Eve of World AIDS Day

This is simply attrocious: Christian Aid, a n Irish/UK religious organization that provides aid to improvrished communities throughout the world, is reporting on their website that a leading Jamaican AIDS activist who was gay and coordinated one of their programs in Jamaica targetting gay men and sex workers, was abducted at gunpoint from his home by three men on Wednesday, November 30th, and found shot to death less than two hours later.

Jamaican police say that Lenford "Steve" Harvey (pictured, on the left) was forced to carry valuables from his house to the robbers' parked car. A housemate who survived said that one of the men said "We hear you are gay" and asked Steve and his two housemates if this was true. The two housemates denied it but Steve did not. The two housemates were left alive and tied to chairs inside the house, Steve was taken in the car and killed moments later.

Last year Human Rights Watch published a damning report about murderous levels of homophobia in Jamaica which was widely criticized by Jamaican press and political institutions as the work of wealthier nations to impose their 'morals' on Jamaican culture. Some even defended the right to rile against gays claiming that homosexuality was not part of Jamaica's culture (the kicker is that Jamaica's anti-sodomy statutes, which still stand as law, are actually the legacy of laws established under colonial occupation by those same countries they now accuse of violating Jamaican culture). Yesterday, Human Rights Watch posted this comment on the tragic murder of Mr. Harvey.

Earlier this year, I participated in a rally outside the Jamaican embassy organized by Amnesty International demanding that the Jamaican government address the entrenched societal homophobia that exists in the country and repeal its sodomy statute. Jamaica's ambassador had promised to meet with activists in the afternoon but the embassy's doors remained closed and we were told that the staff had left for the day.

Late to the game, but welcome nevertheless, on the same day that Steve was killed, the New York Times published an editoral titled "AIDS, and Homophobia, in Jamaica" which addressed the stark situation in Jamaica though aknowledging some advances since the release of the Human Rights Watch report. Earlier, on November 17th, the Los Angeles Times also ran an in-depth article titled "In Jamaica, gay Rights Now an Issue Worth Debating" (both the NY Times editorial and the LA Times article mention Jamaica's Deputy Education Minister Donald Rhodd's recent call to repeal the sodomy statute and mentioned that he was ridiculed by conservative leaders for the call but they do not mention that media's first reaction was to question Rhodd's sexuality as in this Jamaica Observer piece)

Unfortunately, anything Jamaica does now will never bring Mr. Harvey back to life. The very least the government can do in his name is to aknowledge that there is a problem and that it lies at their doorstep so that things can truly change for the better for Jamaica's LGBT communities.


NYC Gay Media News

From today's New York Blade:

It’s a new era for the New York Blade.

The company that publishes the city’s gay newspaper has announced it is joining with the publisher of HX Magazine, the popular nightlife guide, to create a new venture that will produce both publications. The new company, to be called HX Media LLC, will also produce the Gay Life Expo in cities across the country.

Now, if they could improve on their reporting, things would be just peachy keen!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

On World AIDS Day: A Little Noticed Protest in Central America

HIV positive activists and allies stage a surprise public protest at the 3rd Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS at the November 11th closing ceremony in El Salvador; Bottom photo: Elias Antonio Saca, President of Costa Rica and Abel Pacheco, President of El Salvador hurry off the stage to avoid answering protesters.

After more than 10 years of work for an AIDS-prevention agency in the United States, another December 1st rolls around and you become a little disengaged from all the World AIDS Day awareness events and press releases. You grow weary when your own agency organizes a Latino AIDS Awareness Day event and includes women, youth and faith based initiatives in the day's activities but neglects the gay community - at least in its promotional materials and workshop planning (but secretly suspect that all those faith-based prevention funds coming down from the government have something to do with it as well as the involvement of the not so gay friendly Hispanic Federation). You remain HIV negative but see friends become HIV positive over time, you remember those friends who have passed away (Antonio Hernandez, you are always in my heart!) and you pray that the current right-wing assault on anything gay is just a last desperate all-out attack which will fall on its empty logic sooner than later (it's a major barrier to develop prevention messages that are based on increasing gay men's self worth as a means to prevent HIV infection and transmission - and actually work - rather than HIV prevention based on making gay men feel scared or pathologized)

So when there are things that give you a bit of hope and give you reason to continue working in the field, it's better to share, no?

From November 8th through the 11th of this year, El Salvador hosted the 3rd Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS (organized by CONCASIDA). The only major North American coverage I saw of the event was articles highlighting the presence of actress Ashley Judd, yet, over "3,000 politicians, police chiefs, doctors and activists" met at a time when key questions are being raised about the availability of HIV/AIDS treatments throughout Latin America and the impact of free trade agreements - which the United States have been aggressively pursuing to their economic benefit and include stricter regulations - and increasing barriers - to access to HIV meds in the region.

It is not at all easy to keep up with complex governmental trade treaties, much less to be at the table when concessions are made or deals are brokered between governments. And, though I am privy to an e-mail list that is amazingly up to date on the impact of these treaties on HIV prevention world-wide, the language used on the list is English which keeps most Latin American HIV activists in the dark (I know of no similar Spanish-language list).

So when I read news that a large group of HIV positive activists and allies interrupted a series of speeches by governmental leaders by walking into the convention center and holding banners questioning the trade treaties and shouted down some of the Central American presidents who were speaking on the podium, I though "Damn! Great for them!"

Unfortunately, local media such as La Prensa Grafica and El Diario de Hoy mostly disregarded the activists' demands and went as far as to call them misguided and quoted El Salvador government officials who did not waste time in denouncing the protests calling them politically slanted and orchestrated. La Prensa Grafica said that the government was even considering taking legal action against some of the protesters.

In a statement released by the protesters they said the following:
The protest at the closing day ceremony happened because a large number of participants such as ourselves were tired of so the posturing by not only the governmental authorities [present] but also the funding agencies and some individuals 'representing society and people living with HIV/AIDS' who completely forgot how they reached their positions.
They also denied that any one person had manipulated them or orquestrated the protest, or that the protesters were affiliated with a specific political group. They did express fear that there'd be efforts to take action against them due to the public nature of the protest and reminded journalists that in a free democracy they should have the right to protest.

Fortunately, renowned AIDS activist Richard Stern, from the Costa Rica-based Augua Buena Association saw the government response as what it was: An attempt to dissuade public criticism of their HIV policies and intimidate activists and quickly moved to secure international support for the protesters.

Thanks to Richard, UNAIDS released the following statement on November 19th, 2005:
UNAIDS recognizes the efforts made by the Salvadorian National AIDS Programme and all the other organizers of the FORO/CONCASIDA2005 conference and the High Level Presidential Forum on HIV/AIDS for these highly successful events. We believe that the Conference will result in a stronger commitment to HIV/AIDS by all the stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean.

AIDS is a shared concerned and all partners need to make their contribution in order to ensure good follow-up to the commitments made at the Conference ultimately leading towards a stronger response to the epidemic in the Region.

Civil society, and in particular people living with HIV/AIDS, are essential partners who are at the forefront of the AIDS response in all Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Their full engagement and energetic activism give voice to the voiceless and make an essential contribution towards pushing the agenda on key HIV treatment and prevention issues. In this context, building a true and open partnership between civil society and governmental partners is a key strategy for an effective response to the epidemic.

An open, considerate and fruitful dialogue between civil society, governmental and all other stakeholders in a country, where all partners listen to one another and each is able to express their views and opinions in a respectful way and without fears of consequences for their safety and well being, is the only way to ensure that our collective response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic moves successfully forward. UNAIDS is committed to play its role in facilitating such dialogue and strengthening partnerships throughout the Region.

Many contacts among PLWA, Civil Society, Government representatives, international organizations and others have being done by the UNAIDS regional office since yesterday, and it seems to us that the situation in the region is taking the route of dialogue. It is our understanding that meaningful conversation have started between the Government, PLWA and civil society.

Best regards,

Nancy Andrade-Castro
Directora Regional a.i
So, to all those HIV/AIDS activists who were corageous enough to raise their voices and show their faces in demanding access to treatments for Latin America and the Caribbean, my hat goes off to you! On World AIDS Day, your actions are what keeps me going in this field.