Coalition for a healthy society backs Tufton

AMIDST deafening silence from other quarters, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) has applauded Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton on his decision to amend the HIV/AIDS Confidential Reporting Form on grounds that it does not comply with existing constitutional and legal requirements.

The health minister ordered the pullback following an outcry this week from the Love March Movement, a Christian youth non-governmental organisation, calling on the ministry to explain new designations on the HIV/AIDS Confidential Reporting Form, which, instead of the generic male and female identifiers at birth, now includes other options for selection, namely “male to female transgender”, “female to male transgender”, and “other”, with a requirement that individuals “specify” what “other” references.

On the heels of that decision, the Civil Society Forum on HIV in Jamaica had questioned the reason for the “sudden review and proposed adjustment of the form”, while demanding to be told “what on the form violates the Jamaican Constitution”. It also queried the legal structures with which the form has failed to comply.

The JCHS, in wading into the controversy, said while it recognises that the form is a part of the national HIV surveillance system and the information provided is necessary to assist in providing care to affected individuals and the monitoring of the national HIV response, allowing transgender on the form “would have meant an explicit acceptance of the false narrative that people can change their genders”.

“The JCHS notes that the risk of HIV is linked to sexual practices, not to a person’s concept of his or her identity. Why then were these extraneous terms included? Who authorised the inclusion of these terms?” the coalition queried in a statement issued on Friday.

“We, therefore, support the minister strongly for standing for reality,” the coalition said in quoting Dr Ryan Anderson who, in his book, When Harry Became Sally, declared that “to change one’s sex is physically impossible, psychosocially unhelpful, and philosophically misguided”.

An HIV/AIDS Confidential Reporting Form must be filled out when a person is confirmed with HIV infection, regardless of clinical status; for a person previously diagnosed and reported with HIV clinical stage one or two who progresses to advanced HIV infection or AIDS; and for an HIV patient, regardless of clinical status, who now has a CD4 count. Sources of HIV/AIDS Confidential Reporting Forms include public, private, and non-governmental agencies that provide diagnostic and treatment services and submit case reports to the national HIV surveillance system. Treatment, care, and support sites are located at public health centres and hospitals throughout the country.

Wednesday, the health minister, in responding to the question of whether the ministry he leads is selling out to the LGBTQ agenda, said the ministry had noted the concerns and, “based on an internal review, it was agreed that the form, while supporting a detailed epidemiological profile for public health, does not comply with existing constitutional and legal structures of the Government of Jamaica”.

As such, the health minister said the instrument “will, therefore, be amended to be in full compliance”. Tufton has also requested that a full review be done of all forms and instruments of data collection to ensure that there is congruence with all legal and policy directives of the Government of Jamaica.