United and Strong Inc was founded with the sole purpose of “PROVIDING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR THE LGBTI COMMUNITY IN ST LUCIA”.
The epidemic of HIV in Saint Lucia and the region brought with it the epidemic of Stigma and discrimination fueled by the early myth that AIDS was a “gay disease” along with our uneducated and misguided information of LGBT persons. The presence of anti-LGBT laws within our criminal code made it even easier to turn a blind eye to the social injustice faced by the community.
Our perceived religious practices and beliefs based around persons of sexual orientations different from that of a heterosexual, created an even more anti-LGBT atmosphere. One which has resulted in both physical and psychological abuse of LGBT persons be it that their sexual orientation was perceived or real.
This is the environment which spawned the formation of United and Strong Inc and many other organizations across our region with the same goal. It was realized that governments of the region were not ready to fully address the issues affecting such population even when HIV statistics showed they should be at the negotiating table and given due representation, nationally, regionally and internationally.
Our region has seen a number of initiatives geared at giving a voice to the voiceless, structures such as CRN+, CVC, and PSI Caribbean all targeting the vulnerabilized populations of sex workers, LGBTI youth etc. These initiatives were developed because it was clear that critical groups were either left out of the negotiations when addressing how to curb the impact of HIV in the region. We can also view it simply as fear of a political backlash at the end of the five year term of a government.
Organizations such as United and Strong Inc with support from other international partners have ensured that representation when lacking by our governments, are given at the highest level of international structures. When politicians claim to represent the views of the region, we and our colleagues can paint the true picture at these international spaces.
Saint Lucia and the rest of the OECS region are set to implement the Global Fund for AIDS and Tuberculosis which includes emphasis on: combination prevention to key populations and community systems strengthening. We as an organization look forward to the views of our government and the working relationship we hope they will establish with the LGBT community. We look forward to hearing our government’s national and international policies in relation to the LGBT community and related human rights issues.
We have and will continue to express our concerns over such matters like the anti-LGBT/anti-human rights laws contained in our criminal code. It is critical we engage in dialogue with the governance structures of our government that give representation to Saint Lucia at the international level on matters of HIV and Human Rights related issues.
We shall as an organization continue to monitor the comments and views of various government ministers and the international policies of our government in relation to LGBT issues. We shall as an institution of this country continue to strive, for we shall not tire and we shall not remain quiet.