|Gay Celebration in Cuba Launches HIV Prevention Campaign
Exposes myth that LGBT gatherings in Cuba are prohibited
|SEVERAL HUNDRED lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their friends converged at the Mí Cayito section of Guanabo Beach east of Havana on June 14, 2008 to celebrate newfound pride and launch "Together with You."
Together with You (Junto a Tí) is a grassroots initiative to prevent the spread of AIDS among men who have sex with men. The National Center for Prevention of STD/HIV/AIDS and the Ministry of Public Health were event sponsors.
According to the United Nations, Cuba has one of the lowest HIV/AIDS rates in the world with a 0.1 percent infection rate among adults. In contrast, the US rate is six times greater.
In Cuba, HIV treatment, related drugs, medicines and care are free. While the nation has the goal of developing a vaccine and cure for the disease, it seeks to combat more infections now through awareness, education, support and prevention.
A wonderful music video of the gathering was produced by Havana musician Joel Guilian and is available at his myspace website.
His video's credits conclude with the statement, "Homophobia is prejudice, ignorance and violence. It's a threat to the values of equality, social justice, solidarity and respect for diversity that are humanities' most precious wealth."
Guilian's sentiments reflect his country's overall credo.
Positive changes for gays that have government blessing haved inspired a sense of awareness and acceptance across the population. In May this year Cuba announced it would fully support and cover costs for gender-reassignment surgery. Such a bold and compassionate move makes future LGBT gains much easier.
What a different set of priorities from those of affluent gay mis-leaders in the US who focus on chasing corporate dollars and logos while ignoring the dire plight of LGBT youth (640,000 of whom are homeless, without health care and lacking schooling), the poverty experienced by transgendered people on account of bigotry, the double discrimination and persecution faced daily by queers of color, and the economic hardships miring the lives of workaday lesbians and gay men.
Cuba held official events on December 1, 2007 in recognition of World AIDS Day. It endorsed and hosted state events on May 17, 2008 for the International Day Against Homphobia (IDAHO), which were attended by national leaders. This was not the case for the US.
CENESEX and other organizations such as Línea Ayuda (an education and support organization for people with HIV/AIDS) enjoy vast support, membership and participation from LGBT Cubans.
Indeed, Cuba must be doing something right as the Catholic Church recently registered concern. Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana said that while he applauds "efforts to humanize social life" in Cuba by condemning homophobia, he questioned embracing "First World ideologies" that promote an "anything goes" mentality!
Ahead of the United States
Until the year 2003 more than half of US states had sodomy laws and some states vigorously enforced them. In Cuba such laws were struck down in 1979. Anti-gay laws are often cited as a primary reason for homophobia, bashing and discrimination.
Cuba has had nearly a quarter-century head start over most of the United States in legally and socially tackling homophobia. It follows that a society based on equality would rise to the challenge of extending it to all of its citizens.
Here's their sham: announce a parade in Havana from Miami and then announce (also from Miami) it was cancelled for fear their Havana buddies faced imminent arrest and brutality by Cuban authorities. Shamefully no journalist sought to verify the facts island-side. It was reported by the press as truth.
Sadly many well-intentioned LGBT and social justice activists here were duped and confused. Mission accomplished, Miami! (Google "gay pride parade cancelled cuba")
The display of friendship, pride, confidence, fun and camaraderie expressed in the photos and videos of the June 14 Mí Cayito event should go a long ways in prompting thinking LGBT people to question lurid cries that Cuba is a "police state" and "concentration camp for queers."
Rightwingers in Miami and Washington are deathly afraid Cuba's gay gains will win it fresh support from abroad by those also struggling for dignity and equality.
LGBT people must question mistruths spread by Miami fanatics who want to return the island to the dark days of poverty and squalor prior to 1959. They are the same forces we confront every step of the way on our road to freedom.
Article by Marcel Hatch. Spanish translation assistance by Leonardo Hechavarría.
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