In Puerto Rico, suicide is the third leading cause of violent death among men 15 to 34 years old, is a social and health problem that is reaching large proportions and is one of the most disturbing and complex problems facing our society. Reports show that rates of suicide attempts and suicide completion are higher among LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Transsexual) youth than among the general youth population.
Many do not feel safe to “come out” with their orientation because countless LGBTT youths have been rejected by their families and friends. They have suffered abuse, both verbal and physical as a result. This is because it’s difficult for some people to accept others that are not like them and they do not understand that LGBTT population did not choose their orientation; they were born that way, just like some people are born with different skin color. For these reasons exist different organizations world wide to help them throughout this process of coming out and acceptance. These numbers make one wonder are they are pursuing strategies for prevention? Are we handling cases of suicide attempts effectively?
There exist a non-profit program named Carib that was founded in 2012; Carib specializes on psychological treatment of young men who have sex with men between the ages of 18-29 years. According to Dr. Yaritza Bartolomei Cotto,“right now we treat only men due to our lack of funding, these ranges specifically because statistically the men among these ages are more susceptible to sexual transmitted diseases while lesbian women are at lower risk.” This program is a part of Migrant Health Center, Inc., which is sponsored by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), a branch of Department of Health and Human Services in the United States. Besides the psychotherapy treatment this program offers other services such as HIV and Hepatitis C test, safe sex seminars, and counseling for those who are struggling with addictions. In addition they are actively involved with the LGBTT community promoting cultural activities like the Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest.
Although they provide these services their main goal is to provide help reduce the impact of mental instability problems, and lower risks of HIV contraction in the LGBTT community, especially in gay men. Whilst providing a broader access to treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
In Puerto Rico every nine minutes a person is infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and Four people are diagnosed daily (El Nuevo Día). HIV is disease that is transmitted by bodily fluids like blood, semen, hypodermic needles, vaginal fluids and breast milk. This virus causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), this infection compromises the immune system by attacking white blood cells, making people much more susceptible to infections and diseases. AIDS is the final evolutionary state of the HIV virus. Its important to run tests in order to ensure that you do not develop this virus and to identify the virus on time before it evolves in to AIDS which is impossible to control and cure. There are different treatments that supposedly cure this disease but one that fully works has not been discovered yet.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years (bradleydrugs.com). In Puerto Rico, 2.3% of adults between the ages of 21 to 64 years have signs of exposure to the hepatitis C virus, according to the epidemiological study on hepatitis C in Puerto Rico (Nuevo Día).
“This is a safe and friendly place where you can be yourself and where you can escape the social stigmas that are tied to being gay. Here I come to get psychological treatment weekly, to get tested and to receive condoms, if I went to any other public clinic, like I have done in previous occasions, they’ll give you weird looks that make me feel unconformable and unwanted.” – Juan de Leon, regular visitor of the facilities.
By providing this kind of services this program has helped many young men like Juan de Leon by providing them with a safe environment. Its atmospheric setting is very discrete and reserved, there are no signs on its exterior and the entrance is in the posterior part. Once you step inside, a Carib poster welcomes you and a secretary at the front desk greets you with a friendly hello and a smile, making this an environment of acceptance to everyone.
Among the employees one that stood up was Nephtali Pérez, the male nurse of the clinic. In the course of the interview he shared his sexual orientation and how difficult it was for him to come out, “When I came out it wasn’t easy because I come from a Pentecostal family and my father was a priest, I did not have knowledge about any place that was like this one which made the process of coming out very hard for me, as a result my father that is currently seventy-nine years old still does not speak to me. I wished that when I came out I would have known about programs like this one, the process would have been much more easier because I would have known and socialized with people like me, serious people that work for their community, that strive themselves to make a difference and serving as role models for others.”
Places like this are of vital importance to all members of society, both heterosexual and homosexual. They bring knowledge, orientation and moral support to those in desperate need, despite their sexual tendencies and orientation.
Dr. Yaritza Bartolomei Cotto exhorts young individuals to get tested and stated that, “We live in a time where the youth is threatened on a daily basis, the mortality rate is higher among them and the rate of contracting and transmitting a sexual disease is exponentially increasing making them more susceptible to this types of diseases. This is why it’s essential that our government provide more funding so that programs like this are available to a broader range people. I exhort the public to come, visit and take advantage of the services that we provide.