HIV Is Not a Crime but in 34 states and two U.S. territories currently have varying statutes that can penalize HIV+ people for potentially exposing others to the disease. In the state of Iowa, an HIV+ person can get charged with assault and attempted murder for having consensual sex. In Michigan, Daniel Allen, an HIV+ man who bit someone in self-defense got charged with bioterrorism. And in Texas, Willie Campbell, an HIV+ man got 35 years in prison for spitting at a police officer.
In many states, positive people can be prosecuted for having safe sex and not even transmitting a disease. Many laws can be bent to make a person’s HIV status merit a more severe punishment. Watch the documentary HIV Is Not a Crime, 2011 Film by Sean Strub.
“I felt it important that the voices of those who have gone through such prosecutions be heard. It is one of the most extreme manifestations of stigma. When it is enshrined in the law, and is significantly driving the epidemic by discouraging people at risk from getting tested, disclosing or accessing treatment.” says director Sean Strub, an advisor to the advocacy group The Positive Justice Project.
Some states consider criminal transmission of HIV as a misdemeanor. These states have laws that prosecute individuals for criminal exposure of HIV: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
From the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, stigma and fear have fueled mistreatment of people living with HIV. One of the more troubling and persistent issues for people with HIV has been the prospect of criminal prosecution for acts of consensual sex and for conduct, such as spitting or biting, that poses no significant risk of HIV transmission. The Positive Justice Project is CHLP’s response to this issue: a truly community-driven, multidisciplinary collaboration to end government reliance on an individual’s positive HIV test result as proof of intent to harm, and the basis for irrationally severe treatment in the criminal justice system.
The Positive Justice Project (PJP) is a working consortium devoted to ending the abuse of the criminal law against HIV-positive people. PJP includes HIV advocates, researchers, health and social service providers, media representatives, policy analysts, law enforcement and people living with HIV. We engage in federal and state policy advocacy, legal resource creation and support, and on educating and mobilizing communities and policy makers in the United States.
H.R. 3053, the REPEAL (”Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal”) HIV Discrimination Act, was introduced Sept. 23, 2011 by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and addresses the serious problem of discrimination in the use of criminal and civil commitment laws against those who test positive for HIV. This bill creates incentives and support for states to reform existing policies that use the criminal law to target people living with HIV for felony charges and severe punishments for behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission.
To sign on as an endorser of the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Organizations and noted individuals that endorse the bill, as of December 13, 2011, are:
A Brave New Day
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania
AIDS Legal Council of Chicago
AIDS Legal Referral Panel
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
African Services Committee
Anna Forbes, MSS, Independent Consultant
Anthony J. Lemelle, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, City University of New York
Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Assistant Professor, Department of Global and Community Health, George Mason University
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
Aziza Ahmed, J.D., M.S., Assistant Professor
BAYSWAN, Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network
Cascade AIDS Project
Center for HIV Law and Policy
Center for Health Justice
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
Charles Whitehead, San Antonio, TX
David Webber, Attorney
Deon Haywood, Women With A Vision
Dr. Joshua G. Rosenberger
East Bay Community Law Center
Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
GNP+NA (The Global Network of People Living with HIV, North America)
HIV/AIDS Law Project, Community Legal Services, Inc.
HIV Law Project
HIV Medicine Association
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance
Healthy Kinder Inc.
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality Action Fund
John Howard, Miami, Florida
Just Detention International (based in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles)
Latino Commission on AIDS
Legal Action Center
Louisiana AIDS Advocacy Network
Michigan Positive Action Coalition
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
National Center for Health in Public Housing
National Council of Jewish Women
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)
National Stonewall Democrats
National Women’s Health Network
National Women and AIDS Collective (NWAC)
New Mexico Hepatitis Alliance
Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Services, Inc. (OASIS)
PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Search for a Cure
Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK)
Sex Workers Outreach Project – Denver (SWOP-Denver)
Sex Workers Outreach Project – New York City (SWOP-NYC)
Summit Health Institute for Research and Education, Inc.
The AIDS Institute
The American Humanist Association
The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA)
The Philadelphia Center – Northwest Louisiana’s HIV/AIDS Resource Center
The Women’s Collective
U.S. Positive Women’s Network (PWN)
UCAN Inc. (United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network)
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries
Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Diseases (WORLD)
Learn more about HIV Criminalization on the website of the Positive Justice Project.