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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SMART Youth Discuss HIV Criminalization and Advocacy

This past Friday, SMART Youth followed up on a previous discussion we had about HIV and Criminalization. Adrian Guzman from the Center for HIV Law & Policy returned to help us review what we learned from last time, which included an overview of HIV Criminalization in New York and in the United States. We also discussed some examples on how these laws are unfair, discriminatory, and sometimes not even backed by science.

One of the scary facts we learned is that people living with HIV/AIDS have been charged with a crime regardless of if actual transmission of the virus happened; just the possibility of exposure or transmission without prior disclosure is considered against the law. These laws show that HIV stigma is everywhere, including our laws!

Many laws in the US regarding HIV transmission are based on old, inaccurate, or completely false information. Despite years of scientific research proving that it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to transmit HIV through saliva, some states in the US have HIV-specific laws that include spitting or biting as a mode of transmitting the HIV virus. Although New York does not have any HIV-specific laws, those living with HIV are still unfairly targeted using laws like Reckless Endangerment or Aggravated Assault.

We were also provided with some resources and tips for next steps in our advocacy efforts. These included information about the Positive Justice Project, which is a collection of organizations and individuals who are fighting to end HIV Criminalization in the US; endorsing the National Consensus Statement on the Criminalization of HIV in the United States (which SMART and SMART Youth have already done!); and links to toolkits/guides on advocacy strategies and how to write to our elected officials about this issue. The links to the toolkits and guides will be provided at the end of this post.

Together we can end HIV Criminalization in the US, and even the world!
Links to toolkits and guides:

Thank you to Adrian from The Center for HIV Law & Policy for discussing this very important topic with us!

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