Haiti Has Its First Pride March

A march and rally in the Haitian city of St. Marc yesterday, was called by organizers the first of its kind, as gay men and HIV-positive people called for better AIDS treatment and prevention. A dozen men marched in the parade wearing t-shirts reading “I am Gay” or “I Am Living With HIV”. According to the AP:

“Organizers said they hoped the march will break barriers to reach more HIV-positive people and gay men with programs that have helped decrease the country’s infection rate by two-thirds in the last decade.

“They suffer double the stigma and double the discrimination,” said Esther Boucicault Stanislas, a leading activist known as the first person in Haiti to publicly declare that she was HIV-positive after her husband died of AIDS in the early 1990s.”

Under President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Haiti has received over $320 million from the U.S. to combat H.I.V. and AIDS and while infenction rates have fallen, many gay men don’t take part in social programs designed to reduce risk out of fear of being discriminated. The country remains deeply socially conservative. During this year’s election, Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis was forced to read aloud a statement on the radio saying that she was not a lesbian after opponents claimed she was. It was only then that she was approved to the post.