Main | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Presidential AIDS Council Calls For Repeal Of HIV Criminalization Laws

Earlier this month the Presidential Advisory Council On HIV/AIDS passed a resolution calling for the federal government to help states repeal HIV criminalization laws. (I missed this story when it first came out.)  Todd Heywood reports at American Independent:
While the resolution is only advisory, it recommends that the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services issue guidance and offer incentives to state attorneys general and state health departments to eliminate HIV-specific laws. The advisory group also asks these federal agencies to develop guidelines for how to approach HIV within criminal and civil justice systems that are “consistent with the treatment of similar health and safety risks.” PACHA is also requesting that state and federal authorities review the cases of persons convicted under such laws and overturn convictions if deemed appropriate. The group is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “issue a clear statement addressing the growing evidence that HIV criminalization and punishments are counterproductive and undermine current HIV testing and prevention priorities.”
Here's the text of the resolution.
People living with HIV have been charged under aggravated assault, attempted murder, and even bioterrorism statutes, and they face more severe penalties because law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and legislators continue to view and characterize people living with HIV and their bodily fluids as inherently dangerous, even as ‘deadly weapons. Punishments imposed for non-disclosure of HIV status, exposure, or HIV transmission are grossly out of proportion to the actual harm inflicted and reinforce the fear and stigma associated with HIV. Public health leaders and global policy makers agree that HIV criminalization is unjust, bad public health policy and is fueling the epidemic rather than reducing it.
Heywood notes that 32 states presently have laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV. In some cases, HIV+ people have been convicted even when no transmission occurred. 

RELATED: Last month Heywood questioned the story of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo cast member Lee Thompson (Uncle Poodle),  who told an Atlanta gay newspaper that he had a former boyfriend prosecuted and sent to prison for five years after being infected by him. No court records of any such case have yet been found. Heywood has posted a blistering follow-up to the story.
[B]ased on all the evidence we have before us now, I have come to the conclusion that Lee “Uncle Poodle” Thompson has lied. I believe he did so because it was easier than accepting responsibility for his own behaviors and actions. I believe that Thompson lied because his own internalized stigma and fear of HIV left him with the false choice of telling the truth and being demonized for getting infected when “he should have known better,” or creating a perpetrator to blame it on in order to avoid responsibility. It’s a lot easier to place blame on some one else than it is to accept responsibility for yourself and your own actions.
Honey Boo Boo is nominated for a 2013 GLAAD Media Award due to Thompson's presence as an out gay cast member. Thompson wants GLAAD to get the truth from Thompson or withdraw the nomination. The show has broken viewership records for TLC, but ratings have sagged in recent weeks.

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