RRESTED and slapped with a charge of buggery, a 29-year-old man now living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) says he contracted it while in police custody. The young man, who recently spoke to the Jamaica Observer on condition of anonymity ahead of the December 1 observance of World AIDS Day, claims a policewoman facilitated what befell him while in lock-up.
“How I ketch HIV, being at the station by getting lock up with a young person [who was charged with another sexual offence]… the police officer lock me up and carry mi guh a di station,” he said.
The other fellow was allegedly moved to another cell, so the now HIV-positive man was left alone.
“The police carry in two men — one fi hold mi and one fi sex me,” the young man, who is small in stature, recounted. He explained that he had noticed sores on the skin of his alleged abuser, but admitted that, at the time, he knew very little about HIV.
“The man dem do what dem affi do, and by mi fi come out [of lock-up]…mi kinda feel my skin a scratch mi, and a suh mi kinda get a bad moment inna my head and say, ‘No, man, something wrong with me’,” said the man, who has been living with the virus for three years.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS) website, most people infected with HIV do not know [the moment] that they have become infected.
“After the infection, some people have a glandular fever- like illness (with fever, rash, joint pains, and enlarged lymph nodes), which can occur at the time of seroconversion,” it says.
“Seroconversion refers to the development of antibodies to HIV and usually takes place between one and two months after an infection has occurred.”
The young man told the Observer that his life changed after spending one month behind bars before being granted bail.
“Our motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’; one of the time mi did feel like I was not a [person] again,” he recalled.
“I was feeling a little down that time and saying that mi did a go give up; a lot of things been going through my mind as an HIV-positive person,” he continued.
The young man also shared how he was treated while in police custody, as well as when he had to report to police personnel as a condition of his bail.
“The police did treat me bad, bad, bad. She threaten mi say she a go shoot mi,” he alleged.
He said he attempted to avoid the policewoman who allegedly facilitated his assault while in lock-up, opting to report to personnel at another police station in adherence with his bail conditions. However, according to the young man, that still did not make much of a difference.
“Another police officer (at another station) tell mi fi mop up verandah, beat mi up, and also say mi not getting no report or nothing like that [to fulfil the bail condition]. And mi still do it fi get a way fi report and go home back.
“Then when mi go back the following day with a bishop the police already know [everything]; I didn’t tell the man anything.
“The policeman say to mi, ‘A you come from (name of area omitted)? A you a di b…. man?’ ” he recounted.
He continued: “Mi say, ‘Officer, weh mi do yuh? Mi not even know yuh, mi just come yah fi report and yuh a deal with me inna da manner yah’.” He said, too, that the policewoman who allegedly brought two men into his cell, had told him that he got what he wanted.
“That was HIV,” the young man shared. He also alleged that the policewoman proceeded to tell people in his community that he is HIV-positive, but he told the Observer that he has denied it.
The young man, who is one of the more than 730 HIVpositive clients of Jamaica AIDS Support For Life (JASL), has since been freed of the buggery charge with the assistance of legal representation provided by the non-governmental organisation.
“There are legal avenues being pursued now about… the issue of how he got it [HIV],” JASL Policy and Advocacy Officer Patrick Lalor told the Observer in a recent interview.
“We were pursuing the criminal aspect of the case and, now that he is freed of those charges, we are completing the paperwork and legal assessment to begin this matter,” Lalor explained.
He disclosed that the matter relating to how the 29-yearold alleges to have contracted HIV has not yet started, but he anticipates that the team could be ready to bring an action, possibly against the State, as early as next month. He said, too, that no formal complaint has been made against the accused policewoman, who remains on duty.
“The attorneys wanted to get the criminal matter out of the way first, as the way forward was very much dependent on the outcome of the criminal charges,” he explained.
In the meantime, hailing JASL for the help he has so far received from the organisation, the HIV-positive man said: “i feel like a man again.”
He said JASL team members, who he now considers “family”, have provided support in every area of his life. He has also started working again, after walking off his previous job when he found out he was HIV-positive.
“As a person with HIV, it was so hard for me, but as mi say, these family here are a great family, and others can identify that also,” he said, adding that the team is always professional and very “gentle”.
“They are not forcing [the medication] down on you, they are dealing with you so gently that you have to [take it], because you actually feel like you have a friend or family showing they care — that is how they motivate you to take it.
“Some people would go about it with whole heap of vexation and argument and so forth, when you already vex inside because you have the HIV, so the problem is, it would stir up more anger seh nobody cares,” he continued.
These are the things, he said, that motivate him to stand on his own two feet after his diagnosis.
“They are a family,” he said. “They push out a lot.”