HIV is a Virus, Not a Crime
by Daryl Johnson
Dec 02, 2014 | 5558 views | 1 1 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The first national “HIV is Not a Crime” conference was held this summer in Iowa. Writer and HIV/AIDS advocate Mark S. King wrote in his blog about his experience. Most notably he speaks about an extremely powerful and moving speaker named Kerry Thomas.

Thomas, who participated in the conference by video, was prosecuted for not disclosing his HIV status even though he had an undetectable viral load and always used a condom with his partner, making the transmission of HIV almost impossible.

In fact, his partner wasn’t affected, but he is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for this and will not be released until 2038.

Currently, there are 32 states that have HIV-specific criminal laws where people are prosecuted for perceived exposure to or transmission of HIV, even in the absence of transmission or the increased risk of transmission.

An analysis by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Justice researchers found that, by 2011, at least 32 states had enacted a total of 67 HIV-related laws focused on persons living with HIV, and prosecution for alleged exposure to HIV is happening in at least 39 states.

Furthermore, bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and saliva from those living with HIV have been referred to as deadly weapons. Still worse is the fact that people have been charged with aggravated assault, attempted murder, and even bioterrorism under the current set of laws.

In response to the outdated laws, attitudes towards those that are HIV positive and the advances that have been made over the past three decades, congresswomen Barbara Lee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced “The Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act” in 2013.

The bill was assigned to a congressional committee in December 10 of that year, and almost a year later this is where it still sits.

In short, the bill would require a review of all federal and state laws, policies and regulations regarding the criminal prosecution of individuals for HIV-related offenses. The bill aims to modernize our justice system and end criminal discrimination and consequences associated with having HIV/AIDS and engaging in sex.

There is an urgency to restore a standard of fair treatment for all. How will punishing “exposure” encourage people to reveal their HIV status to their sexual partners, seek counseling or get educated? Where should the focus be, on criminalizing HIV-positive people or getting people tested and treated, which can reduce the risk of infecting someone else by 95 percent?

In a society where many different populations suffer the consequences of being stereotyped and marginalized, how will the status quo move us forward in our thinking and actions to increase equity and social justice?

There is little evidence to support that our current laws actually reduce the spread of HIV, but they do promote fear and stigma while undermining HIV prevention efforts.

HIV-related stigma is a significant public health problem creating barriers for those with HIV. It makes people with HIV feel that they can’t be honest for fear they could lose the very services they need most, all of which are essential to their overall health.

Scientific understanding and advances have surpassed the need for these outdated laws. Keeping them endangers present and future public health efforts to reduce HIV infection. Let’s get smart and take action today to decriminalize HIV exposure and transmission.

Daryl Johnson is a Master of Public Health candidate at Long Island University.

Comments
(1)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Kenneth Laura
|
February 27, 2016
I have been HIV positive for 3 years and long for the day to be free of this disease. I would love to be part of any trial that helped find the cure, i have an undetectable viral load and CD4 count of around 1100.

I have tried almost everything but I couldn't find any solution on my disease, despite all these happening to me, i always spend a lot to buy a HIV drugs from hospital and taking some several medications but no relieve, until one day i was just browsing on the internet when i came across a great post of !Michelle! who truly said that she was been diagnose with HIV and was healed that very week through the help of this great powerful healing spell doctor ,I wonder why he is called the great Dr, Odia, i never knew it was all because of the great and perfect work that he has been doing that is causing all this. so I quickly contacted him, and he ask me some few questions and so i did all the things he asked me to do,He ask me to buy some herbs and which I did for my cure,only to see that at the very day which he said i will be healed, all the strength that has left me before rush back and i becomes very strong and healthy, this disease almost kills my life all because of me, so i went to hospital to give the final test to the disease and the doctor said i am HIV negative, i am very amazed and happy about the healing doctor Odia gave to me from the ancient part of Africa, you can email him now for your own healing too on his email: ( drodiaherbalistcenter @ gmail . com ) or call him on 2347032130627. He is always able to help you get your heart desire granted................. I thank Dr, Odia