LETTER OF THE DAY - Bain was biased
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Much has been written on the Brendan Bain controversy, which has been mischaracterised in the press as a tussle between academic freedom and integrity versus special interests (letter to The Gleaner, Thursday, June 19, from Mr Garth Watson). Less has been said about the information that Bain actually presented in his brief to the Belize High Court.
Bain referenced a set of publications in support of the known fact that HIV prevalence levels are significantly higher among gay and bisexual men than in heterosexual men. This is not new material, and certainly, no one is trying to suppress this information.
He then offered his personal opinion that there is no evidence that abolishing the Belize law would decrease HIV transmission rates in Belize. However, Bain failed to comment on the absence of empiric evidence that the ancient buggery laws decrease HIV transmission.
He also omitted the large body of work in the public-health literature that suggests that decriminalisation of the private sexual acts between consenting adults would, in fact, encourage gay and bisexual men to acknowledge their sexual preferences to their physicians and other health-care providers and avail themselves of proven interventions to prevent infection and decrease transmission.
Bain is well aware of, but did not mention, the consensus agreements that govern the global response to HIV/AIDS as articulated by WHO, UNAIDS, PAHO, PANCAP and the UWI in all of its schools and campuses. These are all consistent in highlighting the plight of sexual minorities, and gay men in particular, as vulnerable to HIV infection not just by virtue of sexual practice, but from structural factors such as criminalisation and stigma.
Looking at the available data, and without offering any new evidence, Bain came to what appears to be a radically different conclusion from the entire public-health community in the region and internationally. While we are all calling for the removal of criminalisation as one component in an enlightened and adequate national AIDS response, he finds the opposite. It is this position that strikes all the experts as not evidence-based and suggests a preformed opinion in support of a political or religious belief.
The straw man of academic integrity versus special interest is being flogged repeatedly and should be exposed for what it is. Professor Bain was free to proffer his opinions publicly to the Belize High Court. It is disappointing that he has provided biased personal opinions in an area where a wide body of empiric evidence and consensus opinions to the contrary exists.
FARLEY R. CLEGHORN
MBBS ('82), UWI, MPH