AIDS activists sometimes remind others about the men and women who’ve died fighting the epidemic. Usually, we mean that they devoted their time and energy, even as they themselves might have dwindled toward 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 AIDS organization—Jamaica AIDS Support for Life—was abducted from his home and murdered, after being identified as gay. The police first dismissed the crime as a robbery gone awry; the international community is demanding it be reclassified as a hate crime.

This comes not long after the founder of Jamaica’s gay rights movement, Brian Williamson, was stabbed 70 times in June 2004. The police said this murder, too, was a robbery gone awry.

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

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

Steve Harvey knew that any openly gay man who dared start a movement of people living with AIDS was a marked man—yet he embraced that fate heroically. He will be especially mourned by the most marginalized Jamaicans—the GLBT individuals, people with HIV/AIDS, sex workers and prisoners—for whom he fought to give access to HIV/AIDS information and services.

Jamaica is killing its activists instead of working for greater understanding and punishing those who commit violent crimes. Though Steve Harvey is dead, he did not die of AIDS. He was singled out for murder because he was an activist, spoke the truth, was gay and because he raised awareness of an HIV/AIDS problem that has embarrassed the Jamaican government.

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

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

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

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

We are a movement built on the courage and guts of people like Steve Harvey. His murder is a shame on Jamaica. But it is a shame on us if we don’t do something about it.