Human Rights Watch mourns the death of Steve Harvey, a leading Jamaican HIV/AIDS activist who worked tirelessly to defend the health and human rights of people living with and at high-risk of HIV/AIDS.
Harvey, 30, was found dead early in the morning of November 30. According to Jamaican police, at least four assailants forced their way into Harvey’s home when he returned from work around 1 a.m. They tied up Harvey and two people staying with him, stole a number of their possessions, and abducted Harvey in the company car. Harvey was found with gunshot wounds in his back and head in a rural area miles from his home.
For more than a decade, Harvey was a leader in the struggle to defend the health and human rights of people living with and at high risk of HIV/AIDS. He worked with Jamaica AIDS Support since 1997, and represented the interests of marginalized people and people living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and throughout the region.
“Steve Harvey was a person of extraordinary bravery and integrity, who worked tirelessly to ensure that some of Jamaica’s most marginalized people had the tools and information to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS,” said Rebecca Schleifer, researcher with the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and author of a recent report on anti-gay violence and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. “I have seen the impact of Steve’s work firsthand, and been inspired by his courage and capacity to reach out to and make a profound difference in the lives of Jamaicans affected by HIV/AIDS. His death on the eve of World AIDS Day gives us one more reason to pause and reflect on the significance of activists’ work in the fight against AIDS.”
As Kingston coordinator of targeted interventions for Jamaica AIDS Support, Harvey was responsible for ensuring that the most marginalized of Jamaicans—gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals; sex workers; prisoners—were ensured access to HIV/AIDS information and services. For his extraordinary talent and hard work, he was chosen as Jamaica’s representative to the Latin America and Caribbean Council of AIDS Service Organizations. He was also a registered delegate to the People’s National Party conference.
“Steve Harvey’s death is an enormous loss,” Schleifer said. “But it is essential that his murder does not succeed in intimidating other human rights workers. It is vital that the Jamaican government condemns this brutal crime, and brings the perpetrators to justice.”