AIDS activists sometimes remind others about the men and women who’vedied fighting the epidemic.  Usually, we mean that they devotedtheir time and energy, even as they themselves might have dwindledtoward death.

But “activists who die fighting the epidemic”has assumed another horrific meaning. At 1 am this past December 1,World AIDS Day, Steve Harvey, who ran Jamaica’s leading AIDSorganization—Jamaica AIDS Support for Life—was abducted from his homeand murdered, after being identified as gay. The police first dismissedthe crime as a robbery gone awry; the international community isdemanding it be reclassified as a hate crime.

This comes notlong after the founder of Jamaica’s gay rights movement, BrianWilliamson, was stabbed 70 times in June 2004. The police said thismurder, too, was a robbery gone awry.

Same-sex love betweenadults in Jamaica is punishable by long prison terms and hard labor.Indeed, Human Rights Watch has singled out Jamaica for fostering aclimate of violent homophobia: Law enforcement officials not onlyignore but often incite it. Jamaica’s only gay rights organization doesnot publicize its location for fear of attack. One of its website’sprimary features gives information on how Jamaica’s gay men andlesbians can emigrate to other countries.

This reign ofantigay terror has had a disastrous effect on the nation’s HIVepidemic. Jamaica has one of the highest HIV rates in the Caribbean.Because HIV is still viewed as a largely gay disease, at-risk men andwomen fear even going to clinics to get tested; workers providingtreatment and other services, especially to gay men, have beenassaulted. The day before Harvey’s death, the New York Times ran aneditorial titled “AIDS, and Homophobia, in Jamaica.”

SteveHarvey knew that any openly gay man who dared start a movement ofpeople living with AIDS was a marked man—yet he embraced that fateheroically. He will be especially mourned by the most marginalizedJamaicans—the GLBT individuals, people with HIV/AIDS, sex workers andprisoners—for whom he fought to give access to HIV/AIDS information andservices.

Jamaica is killing its activists instead of workingfor greater understanding and punishing those who commit violentcrimes. Though Steve Harvey is dead, he did not die of AIDS. He wassingled out for murder because he was an activist, spoke the truth, wasgay and because he raised awareness of an HIV/AIDS problem that hasembarrassed the Jamaican government.

Mourn Steve Harvey. But do more than mourn. Honor his work by taking three steps:

Writeand let the Jamaican Ambassador to the U.S., Gordon Shirley, know howyou feel: c/o The Jamaican Embassy, 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW,Washington, DC, 20036, or call  202.452.0660.

Donate toJamaica AIDS Support for Life. Without Harvey, it needs financialsupport more than ever. Send your check to 4 Upper Musgrave Avenue,Kingston 10, Jamaica, or at www.jamaicaaids

Boycott travel to Jamaica. Maybe a whop in the wallet will compel action to protect GLBT people and people with HIV in Jamaica.

Weare a movement built on the courage and guts of people like SteveHarvey. His murder is a shame on Jamaica. But it is a shame on us if wedon’t do something about it.