Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Caving in to lobby hijackers

Published:Wednesday | May 21, 2014 | 5:00 AM

By Gordon Robinson

Freedom of expression took a severe body blow yesterday when the University of the West Indies sacked Brendan Bain.

Professor Bain's crime? His expert affidavit was used in a high-profile case in Belize brought by Caleb Orozco, a gay man attempting to strike down Belize's anti-buggery law. Most modern, well-thinking individuals support Mr Orozco's mission because anti-buggery laws everywhere are dark-ages relics and seek to breach persons' privacy by criminalising non-public acts between consenting adults.

Professor Bain has been under pressure from gay-rights groups and is in danger of being cast as one of those archaic thinkers. Why? Because his affidavit, which stated countries that repealed buggery laws experienced HIV/AIDS rate increases among men having sex with men, was presented by churches opposing Orozco's application.

Since then, Brendan Bain has been haunted, hunted and vilified. He's been painted as anti-gay; as pro-retention of anti-gay laws; as pro-retention of anti-buggery laws; and an all-round wickedness. The truth is that Brendan Bain simply reported his scientific findings without editorial comment but, because these findings were used by opponents to the buggery-law repeal, Bain has been tried, found guilty by association, and fried in his science's fat.

The Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Centre was a CARICOM initiative and is not a UWI programme. UWI operates CHART on contract to CARICOM. It was created "for the purpose of contributing to systematic capacity development among institutional and community-based health-care workers involved in prevention of HIV/AIDS, and in care, treatment and support of persons living with HIV and AIDS".

How can that charter be accomplished without detailed understanding of the sources of the infection? Are studies about the virus' origins now to be banned because gays might be offended? Or are health-care workers to continue to labour in ignorance regarding how their patients may have contracted the disease or how communities may protect healthy members from coming into contact with the virus?

Is it viruses that are off limits for research or just HIV? Should we not have researched the cause of the bubonic plague or smallpox? Oh, I know, we can do the research but can't tell anybody what our findings are.

Brendan Bain has been in charge of CHART from its inception in 2003 until now. The programme has recorded monumental successes. Bain led the team that wrote the grant application for the ongoing CHART project. As a result, the project was awarded a five-year grant for the period, April 2012-March 2017, valued in 2012 at US$ 9 million.

This grant is one of the largest UWI has received; is also the first grant awarded by the US Health Resources and Services Administration to a university outside the USA; and was awarded on the basis that Professor Bain was identified in the grant document as the principal investigator and project director.

Programme's ruination

Brendan Bain should be a hero to all people living with HIV/AIDS. Suddenly, he sends an affidavit of his scientific finding to a Belize court. The result? Brendan Bain's continuation at CHART would mean the programme's ruination.

UWI, taking this disgraceful action in Caribbean governments' name, had the gall to put the following in writing: "...The university recognises the right of Professor Bain to provide expert testimony in the manner he did", yet, unilaterally terminates the gentleman's sole source of income because "it has become increasingly evident that Professor Bain has lost the confidence and support of a significant sector of the community which CHART is expected to reach ...". What rot! Has one single CHART-trained health-care worker complained about Professor Bain? CHART wasn't formed to reach lobby groups.

UWI has exposed itself as a cowardly eunuch. Gay-lobby groups have a justifiable vision of a world bereft of discrimination against gays. But their anxiety to achieve that vision by any means necessary can endanger the very vision. They've weakened a programme beneficial to gays and destroyed a good man's reputation, livelihood and freedom of speech.

Be careful. Is this the thin edge of the wedge resulting in doctors refusing to assist litigants?

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.