Jamaica: Christian HIV support worker shot dead

 Steve Harvey, from Christian Aid partner, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) was shot dead on Friday. He ran a programme providing support for people with AIDS and HIV. Three men, armed with guns, broke into Mr Harvey's house and demanded money. They then forced him to carry valuables into the JASL car parked outside. Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. With a population of only 2.7 million people, the country has seen 1,383 murders in 2005 alone. Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica: men convicted of homosexual activity can face ten years' imprisonment with hard labour. Victims of homophobic violence are often too scared to appeal to the police for protection. According to Human Rights Watch: "Police actively support homophobic violence, fail to investigate complaints of abuse, and arrest and detain men based on their alleged homosexual conduct." A Christian Aid spokesperson said: 'JASL defends the rights of people who are not considered to have any rights in Jamaica. The work they do is very dangerous.' Human Rights Watch also states: 'Jamaica's growing HIV/AIDS epidemic is unfolding in the context of widespread violence and discrimination against people living with and at high risk of HIV/AIDS, especially men who have sex with men.' An estimated 1.5 per cent of Jamaicans are living with HIV/AIDs. Although two thirds of HIV transmission is through heterosexual sex, many people still blame gay men for spreading the virus. On Sunday, Mr Harvey led JASL's annual candle-lit vigil in memory of those killed by HIV. JASL is now mourning the death of one of their strongest defendants of people living with HIV/AIDS.

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