Community Forum Addresses Problems of HIV Criminalization
On Thursday, May 24 the Center and several other agencies co-sponsored a community forum on HIV criminalization featuring a screening of a short film, HIV is Not a Crime followed by a panel discussion.
Panelists included Robert Suttle, Assistant Director of The Sero Project, who was convicted and incarcerated in Louisiana for HIV non-disclosure, Attorney Beirne Roose-Snyder from The Positive Justice Project, and Sean Strub of Poz Magazine and Executive Director of The Sero Project.
Partner organizations included the Positive Justice Project, ACT UP, SERO, Queerocracy and the Center.
Here are several points covered during the May 24 discussion:
-HIV criminalization penalties are vastly disproportionate to any potential risk or actual harm.
-HIV criminalization undercuts most basic message about sexual health, which is that each person must ultimately be responsible for him or herself.
-HIV criminalization is inherently discriminatory, and singles HIV out in an exceptional manner, treating it differently from other sexually transmitted infections which, if left untreated, can also cause serious harm.
-HIV criminalization creates a “viral underclass” in the law, creating different criminal law for people with HIV than for everyone else.
-Prosecutions have little or nothing to do with contemporary science or whether or not there is an actual risk present; they are about whether or not the person with HIV can prove disclosure.
-HIV criminalization leads to poor public health policy because it discourages testing (ignorance of one’s HIV status is the best defense)
- HIV criminalization discourages disclosure, for fear of someone from one’s past coming forward; every person with HIV is now one disgruntled ex-partner away from being in a courtroom.
-Mounting evidence shows these laws don’t achieve their intended purpose (to reduce HIV transmission); a growing body of evidence shows they actually contribute to the spread of HIV by driving stigma and discouraging testing.
To learn more about this issue, watch HIV is Not a Crime here.