By: Andrea Downer - Three years ago, Panos Caribbean broke the silence surrounding sex among male prisoners in Jamaica and the associated sexual and reproductive health issues in an investigative study that was researched and written by Panos Caribbean‘s journalist and consultant Andrea Downer.
The book: No Sex or Condoms Here: HIV Prevention, Treatment & Care in Jamaican Prisons won several awards including the first place in print in the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) regional media awards as well as first place in the Pan-American Health organisation’s (PAHO) national and regional awards in 2008.
In May 2011 Panos Caribbean awarded a media fellowship to Advanced Media Productions for them to produce a short video based on the issues explored in the book. The idea was to re-ignite public debate on the very relevant issue and hopefully spark action by the relevant authorities.
On Sunday, July 15, 2011 an article written by Janice Budd published in the Jamaica Observer screamed: “Left to die – HIV-positive inmates say they are neglected in prison” The burning issue was once again front and centre. According to Janice, inmates from the Tower Street Corrections facility in downtown Kingston had contacted her newsroom and begged them to get word out about their plight.
“I am living with HIV, you understand, but I don’t want to die inside here,” was the impassioned plea from an inmate to the Sunday Observer from behind the massive masonry that constitutes the walls of the maximum-security St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, the country’s old capital.
“I did not bring this disease on myself and now I have to live wid it. I don’t want to die as yet,” The inmate was quoted as saying, with more than a hint of desperation resonating in his soft voice.
“Prisoner living with HIV hopes is just from the hospital, to the morgue, to their grave,” he said, adding that it’s easy to feel that there is no point to living.
“Quite often, when you si dem drive in di ambulance, drive in and drive out, is a prisoner who is HIV-positive or have full-blown AIDS they taking to hospital, and by time dem tek dem out there, dem dead, because they not paying us no attention at all,” the inmate continued.
The 2008 Panos study was quoted extensively in the article. Two media houses contacted Panos Caribbean and invited a representative to speak on the matter. Online Content Manager, Andrea Downer was interviewed by Jamaican radio station Bess FM and local television station, TVJ on it’s morning programme: Smile Jamaica.