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The project that has delayed many blog posts of mine for the last few weeks is something that I cannot discuss here, however, it has taken me on an interesting journey through the world of public policy and how it affects many different communities, from queer, women\’s, and/or LGBT issues. I will admit that I haven\’t been as \”in the loop\” about AIDS/HIV (though I do know one thing, housing and affordable care are very important), but I feel that one issue that is not given enough attention is criminalization.

According to ActionAIDS:

Criminalizing HIV non-disclosures takes a “law and order” approach to an exceeding complex health and social issue–the prevention of HIV. While using the criminal law may be warranted in some extreme situations, like wilful HIV transmisison, what we are seeing in Canada is a much more expansive use of the criminal law. The “law and order” approach does virtually nothing to stop HIV transmission, stigmatizes people living with and at risk of HIV, and is undermining proven HIV prevention strategies and programs.

And yet, 33 states have various laws which criminalize HIV transmission (the only hold-outs are the New England states, New York, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and Hawaii). The Positive Justice Project has a comprehensive list of the somewhat complex patchwork of laws relating to HIV transmission. For example, my state, Pennsylvania, criminalizes HIV transmission by prisoners as well as by sex work, while Mississippi\’s statutes are overly broad and open to the discretion of prosecutors, who, frankly, do not exist in a vacuum and may not recognize the uncalled for stigma.

And it is not just solely those who are LGBandespeciallyT who are at risk for increased prosecution:

Pop quiz: Which nation leads the world in the prosecutions of HIV exposure and/or transmission? Perennial human rights violators such as Russia, China, or dictatorships in the Middle East or Africa? Not even close.

The surprising answer: The United States.

In more than 60 nations it is a crime to expose another person to or transmit HIV. The United States has reportedly led the world with “thousands of prosecutions”, according to United Nations-backed Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Thirty-four states and two territories criminalize exposure and/or transmission of HIV.  Some laws penalize having sex without revealing serostatus to partner—regardless if a condom were used or the virus was transmitted. Other laws criminalize spitting or biting—which pose little threat of HIV transmission.

And new research shows that Black men have been disproportionately singled out for prosecution.\’

 

However, US Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) has introduced a bill, the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, numbered as HR3053, which calls for a review of all federal and state laws relating to HIV/AIDS criminalization. All in all, the simple solution would be to only prosecute those who WILLFULLY and MALICIOUSLY transmit the infection.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis.